The Trump White House should be less concerned with the U.S. border with Mexico and turn its attention to Canada instead, an investigative report in the U.S. online news site The Daily Beast suggested this week.

The report quotes unnamed FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials as saying far more "suspected terrorists" are being encountered at the U.S.-Canada border.

"We are looking in the wrong direction," the story quotes a senior Homeland Security official as saying. "Not to say that Mexico isn't a problem, but the real bad guys aren't coming from there — at least not yet."

The story points to leaked FBI data collected between 2014 and 2016 that showed the number of "suspected terrorists" trying to enter the U.S. from Canada at land border crossings was in some months twice that encountered at the Mexico-U.S. border.

The Mexico-U.S. border is the main entry point for economic migrants seeking work in the U.S. 

  • The Investigators airs Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

The data was leaked to Daily Beast reporter Jana Winter, who said the term "suspected terrorist" can be misleading.

"Our watch list system has long been criticized for being way too broad, so it could mean, you are, you know, a terrorist [or] you have the same name as someone who is being investigated. Or you could be associated with a certain group from a certain country … It really covers the gamut."

While focus is on south, criminals head north

Speaking this week to The Investigators, Winter said her story has prompted reaction on both sides of the border.

"I think most shocking [is] that some of the law enforcement officials — and also congressmen and senators who live and work in border states — had no idea that these numbers existed. The U.S is so busy focusing on Mexico."

But when asked, she deemed "ridiculous" any suggestion that the data was leaked by those opposed to a border wall with Mexico trying to shift the focus to Canada.

The Investigators with Diana Swain - Jana Winter Interview3:38

"I was given them, frankly, by sources who largely agree that there should be some sort of border wall … but who think both sides need to be looked at," Winter said.

"Plus, the more that you're on TV talking about the southern border as the only threat — as one of my sources pointed out — if you were a terrorist trying to get into the country, and you weren't incredibly stupid, you would probably go to the border that isn't the focus of every single conversation."

The Canadian government has responded to the story by pointing out that "no terrorist attack has ever been carried out by individuals entering the United States from Canada." 

USA-TRUMP/IMMIGRATION

U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol near Jacumba, Calif., on the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. President Donald Trump has been focused on more tightly sealing the country's border with Mexico. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

For years, after the 9/11 attacks, some U.S. government officials — including for a time, then New York Senator Hillary Clinton — mistakenly insisted some of the attackers had made their way to the U.S. through Canada. They did not. But Winter suggests the numbers she's obtained show the U.S. has to at least consider the possibility that Canada poses a substantial threat.

"How about we have a discussion about what's actually happening?" she said. "The trend towards the northern border has been increasing substantially, which doesn't mean that Mexico is still not a threat. But, it seems sort of ridiculous to be focusing on one border, when the the other one is right there."

The Investigators with Diana Swain - Donald Trump and the Canadian border22:26

Also this week on The Investigators: Why are so many asylum seekers illegally crossing into Canada from the U.S. at the Manitoba border? CBC News reporter Karen Pauls talks about trying to find who's behind the asylum pipeline. Watch the show Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.