U.S. erecting 16 more towers to watch Canadian border
The U.S. Border Patrol is erecting 16 more video surveillance towers in Michigan and New York to help secure parts of the U.S.-Canadian border, relying on technology to assist border patrol agents.
Eleven of the towers are being installed in Detroit and five in Buffalo, N.Y., to help monitor water traffic between Canada and the United States along Lake St. Clair and the Niagara River.
At present, agents are posted along the river to keep an eye on water traffic.
Cameras will soon be used to zoom in on a boat that left Canada, for instance, and watch where it goes and what it does, said Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Secure Border Initiative at Customs and Border Protection.
"So the idea is to have cameras watch, and then agents are freed up to respond," Borkowski said. The cameras will cut down the agent's response time by minutes, he said.
Four similar video towers have already been erected in Buffalo. Security operations along the Canadian border include the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and coordination and intelligence sharing with local law enforcement.
The U.S. government awarded the $20-million US project to Boeing Co., the same company responsible for the so-called "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexican border that has come under criticism for faulty technology.
American Civil Liberties Union slams plan
Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Secure Border Initiative has been a disaster since its inception.
"The technologies don't work, they're not weather-resistant and they're certainly privacy invasive," Sparapani said. "Putting them in America's backyards only invades the privacy of Americans, it doesn't add to our security."
Borkowski acknowledged that as cameras pan an area it might point at a private residence. He said that is not the intended targets and the resolution of the video won't be clear enough for residents to be concerned about privacy issues. In addition, only law enforcement officials will be operating the cameras.
The Border Patrol says its 1,500 agents along the northern border were involved in the arrests of 7,925 individuals last year. During the same time, 705,005 people were arrested on the southwest border with Mexico, where 16,500 agents currently are assigned.
Borkowski said the additional technology on the northern border may not lead to more arrests. But he said there are parts of the border that are vulnerable to terrorists and drug trafficking.
"What we don't know is how often that vulnerability is exploited," he said. "If, in fact, there's a lot more going on than we thought, then this technology will help us identify it and it will help us respond and apprehend those people in ways that we haven't before," he said.