Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



U.S. Customs uses border 'hits' to blame Canada

Such was the headline in today's thestar.com story, see www.thestar.com/World/Columnist/article/624334. The point of the story was how Canada is often blamed for having lax borders and ineffective laws and so, the logic goes, Canada presents more of a threat to the U.S. than Mexico. When the reporter dug deeper, he correctly reported individuals coming into the U.S. from Canada generated some 500 hits on the U.S. government's integrated terror watch list, while those arriving from Mexico generated only 150 hits. He then reported that those arriving from Canada most often were coming from elsewhere and so catching connecting flights, plus the hits often were associated with U.S. citizens or green card holders.

The point to the story was that Canadians feel wronged by the lack of context and clarity when threats are discussed and they are right. Adding insult to injury is a quote in the story by an unnamed Customs and Border Protection officer who said "[t[he concern is when detail gets out, it makes it to our enemies and we run the risk of allowing them to exploit vulnerabilities. " This standard answer for why Customs refuses to provide logical detail in any context is exactly what undercuts the agency's credibility. No one is suggesting the agency spell out how it conducts its law enforcement, but suggesting enemies of the U.S. have not figured out to use connecting flights to get into the U.S. through Canada is just plain silly! Not everything Customs does in the name of law enforcement should be kept confidential. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of creativity to figure out how to explain it without compromising other mission critical efforts. So, why does Customs so frequently act like it has something compromising to hide?

 

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