Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Trolling the Niagara for terrorists
Mention border security and illegal immigration to someone and the border between the United States and Mexico likely comes to mind. But what about the U.S. border with Canada?

With the recent arrest of terrorist suspects in Canada, we decided to take a look at border security in the area near Buffalo, New York. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say that in terms of cars and trucks it is the busiest crossing on the northern border. Only about two hours from Toronto, millions of vehicles enter Buffalo from Canada through a number of bridges in the area. Checkpoints are in place for those vehicles. But the border itself in that area is all water. Securing it, as we found out, can be difficult.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Buffalo patrols a 600 mile stretch of the coastline, which is just a small fraction of the roughly 4,000 mile long northern border. The unit took us along to give us a sense of what it's like on the front lines of this nation's border defenses.

Outside of Buffalo, the Niagara River separates the United States and Canada by less than a mile in some stretches. Coast Guard boats patrol the river for everything from boaters in distress to safety violations; they also look for smugglers and terrorists.

They say one of their most difficult tasks is trying to spot suspicious behavior in these waters due to the traffic of pleasure and commercial boats. They tell us that people have tried to slip through the border by using this waterway -- some use little boats, others use life jackets, many try to cross using a cloudy morning or the darkness of night as their cover.

While the number of illegal immigrants trying to get through the northern border is much smaller than on the southern border, the job of securing the Canadian border is coming under increasing scrutiny with the recent arrest of 17 terror suspects in Toronto.

Some terrorism experts say there are two main reasons to be concerned about the possibility of terrorists slipping through our border with Canada. One reason is the terrain. Because the border is made up of vast stretches of water and forest, it is nearly impossible to seal.

The second reason is that Canada has more lenient laws than the United States when it comes to political asylum. The Canadian ambassador has denied that claim. But some experts say Canada's recent arrests should get our attention. They say a problem in Canada could easily become a problem in the United States.
Posted By Mary Snow, CNN Correspondent: 5:39 PM ET
When President Bush deployed about 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, did he forget about the Canadian border? It seems to me that he did. An equal amount of attention should be paid to both borders-especially with the recent terror arrests in Toronto.
Posted By Anonymous Jared, Cambridge, MA : 6:33 PM ET
We are living in very troubled times. Sadly, we do need the borders patrolled. I will never understand the destructive mentality of some people. They live in the United States and Canada, and still want to uleash havoc. This is sick!
Posted By Anonymous Sheila Pates Louisana : 6:35 PM ET
Yet if we as American's demand the borders be secured, we are labeled a racist and cruel. This is exactly why all borders need to be secured in order to protect US citizens. To me, safety is a bigger concern than a strawberry picking job taken. Our government has failed its peoples to satisfy Corporate America' demand for cheap labor with low overhead. Really sad.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills CA : 7:34 PM ET
It seems to me that maybe the U.S. should meet with Canada and try to work out something so that both countries are more protected. Maybe if they work together, both countries will be stronger when it comes to terrorism.
Posted By Anonymous Jamie, Olive Branch, MS : 8:49 PM ET
It's true that Canada and the U.S. have the longest, unprotected border in the world - a fact we can be proud of. Unfortunately, in today's real world we do have to be more vigilant. However to suggest that Canada is a haven for "terrorist extremists", as stated in a piece aired tonight with Jon Roberts as guest host for Anderson Cooper, is both inflammatory and a ridiculous generalization. A quote in Mary Snow's article " they say a problem in Canada could easily become a problem in the US" is both naive and ironic. I would venture to say that 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing might indicate that there is already a home grown problem that has nothing to do with Canada. Early reports after 9/11 attempted to blame Canada as the portal by which the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center entered the US. These claims were not only proven false but it was later learned that visas were erroneously issued to the deceased terrorists by your own INS after 9/11. Rassam, in 1999, did not get through the border because of effective measures. The 17 terrorist suspects arrested in Toronto show that our security system is working. To be alarmist about the terrorist threat from Canada is a little over the top, I would suggest. I would also suggest that our journalists could understandably overstate the threat to our security of US gun and drug running across our common border as a threat to Canadian security. Interestingly, I don't hear it...
Stick to the facts, give credit to the efficient work of those who thwarted a threat and look within your own borders for "boogeymen" before you stir up fear against your "kind and gentle" neighbour to the north.
Posted By Anonymous Karen Abrams, Calgary, Alberta, Canada : 11:48 PM ET
My concern with border security is access to Canada from the US. 70% of gun related crime in Canada is committed using weapons smuggled into our country from the USA. You express concerns about Canadian "leniency" in immigration and asylum issues. Many Canadians are much more concerned about America's lenient gun laws.
Posted By Anonymous Ken Yurchuk, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 12:22 AM ET
Canada is doing a good job in fighting terrorism and the U.S. should focus on co-operative efforts rather than try and "seal" the border. Sealing the border only hurts American (and Canadian)jobs, tourism and trade.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Milrad, Buffalo NY : 8:21 AM ET
Where do you get the idea Canada had very lenient laws as compared to the States?

Our laws are very tight and every new immigrant is highly scrutinized and checked before they are allowed to become Canadian citizens. Also, our border security is top notch. Which country's border patrol allowed the 9/11 hijackers into the States? It wasn't ours.
Posted By Anonymous George Clendenan, Toronto, Ontario : 8:35 AM ET
This recent incident on the Canadian border certainly serves as another wake-up call for the United States. This indicates we cannot let our guard down for a moment and it is up to everyone of us loving freedom and our fellow person to be aware in our local areas for suspicious activities. This is time for us to be alert to what and who lives among us. It is a time for us to be tuned in to the happenings of our world . . . no panic buttons but calm, collective interest and participation in the affairs of our great country.
Posted By Anonymous Mary Allred, Melrose, Florida : 8:39 AM ET
The American reaction to this is interesting. It would be comparable to Canadian media, after 9/11, only being concerned about how it effects Canada. It's not all about America. Can the American media take a line and explain Canadian troops are in Afganistan and Bin Laden named Canada as one of 5 nations he wants attacked? Guess not.
Posted By Anonymous John Driedger, Edmonton, Alberta : 8:45 AM ET
As leaky as the border may seem we are still dealing with a first world country (Canada) that has highly trained people maning their international ports of entry. We can feel reasonably secure for at least that reason.

Our southern neighbor (Mexico) on the other hand does not give us any sense that they are as secure on their international borders. Thus anyone sneaking across their southern borders bent on entering ours with malice in mind is a real and present danger.

Our goal is to secure both but I believe our number one priority is still with our southern border.
Posted By Anonymous Lou M., Lake Forest, Ill : 9:24 AM ET
I think a far more pertinent and immediate problem is the flow of drugs and weapons from the United States TO Canada. To scare monger about the effectiveness of immigration laws is out of place. The mentality of the terrorist is a tricky thing and there is probably no way to "screen" the thousands, indeed, hundreds of thousands of people applying for immigrant status to the U.S. and Canada to weed out those who would become terrorists or who intend to commit crimes of any sort. I think it is also important to note that the majority (I believe) of those arrested in Canada were not immediate immigrants, but the offspring of immigrants, i.e. born, educated and raised in Canada (much like the London Metro bombers)...so how do you prevent that?? Surely not by having a flotilla of armed zodiacs on Lake Ontario! Sincerely,
Posted By Anonymous Anthony Hasek, Prague, Czech Republic : 9:42 AM ET
I'm an American who lived in Montr�al. There are many places along the border, especially in Qu�bec where there is no border checkpoint at all. You can literally just walk across. Thankfully, not many people know about them, but if you really wanted to get into the U.S. from Canada you should just pick some remote farm in Manitoba and hop over the fence keeping the cows in.

The security at the border with Canada is very lax in my opinion. After 9/11 my mother and I were going to Canada by way of Detroit/Windsor and we almost did not get in because my mother did not have a passport. Luckily I did and was able to convince Canada that we were related. However coming back, my mother had no problems whatsoever entering the U.S. I basically just flashed the cover of my passport and we were ushered through.
Posted By Anonymous Troy, Vienna, Austria : 9:52 AM ET
you should come check out the border near the Thousand Islands, on the St Lawrence River. it's narrow, mostly rural and 30 miles from a major military installation.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth S, Watertown, NY : 10:03 AM ET
I believe in Canada's honor and integrity. I believe in Canada's commitment to the protection of their people and their pursuit of peace. I also believe that we need to show some respect and gratitude to Canadian law enforcement for doing what we know is a very difficult job. We have just witnessed Canada's resolve to not let terrorists find comfort within their borders.
We're safer in our own country because Canada does a very good job of taking care of their own business, unlike our other neighbor. Canada has proven to be the very best type of neighbor and friend to America, even when we haven't deserved it very much.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy K.,Janesville, Wi. : 10:04 AM ET
Thank you to CNN for your excellent coverage of the recent arrest of 17 terror suspects in Toronto. I was flipping Canadian channels only to be frustrated for lack of information. I turn to CNN and the coverage was more indepth of what was happening than any Canadian news I saw.

I am very proud of the investigators and law enforcement on this case. The terrorists were stopped before carrying out their plan and that makes me feel just a tad safe knowing that the Canadian government learned something from 9/11.
Posted By Anonymous Nicki F., Calgary, Alberta : 10:37 AM ET
I realise that this is a big awakening in the security field, and I realise that there could be better security along the border, but I am from Canada, and I feel like at times, were are really being looked upon as a bad country who is harbouring terrorists or just growing them. We are not all like that. If it would be easy for Canadian terrorist to enter the US, it is just as easy for a US terrorist to enter Canada.
Posted By Anonymous Kirsty Seddon: Mount Pearl, Newfoundland : 10:44 AM ET
Your article reflects common US misconceptions about the 17 arrested terrorists in Canada. Five were minors under 18, and all under 21 except one man a 43 year old janitor. Almost all were immigrants to Canada when they were small children and went to local high schools. To blame immigration laws for every problem is firmly emdedding your head in the sand.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Toronto Canada : 10:44 AM ET
The recent arrest of terrorists in Canada is NOT a call to strengthen the northern border. I suspect that our politicians will be calling for more assests for the Canadian border and sneak some assests away from the Mexican border. The reason....cheap labor comes from Mexico, not Canada. The fact that Candian officials were able to find and arrest these terror suspects, should be comforting and make us realize that Canada is a partner...not a liability. We should not let our government use scare tactics and false logic to instill fear about Canada. I have not heard of big arrests by Mexican officials of terrorist, drug smugglers, or human smugglers. Therefore I say, let's keep an eye on the Canadian border, but keep our focus and our resources on the more dangerous Mexican border.
Posted By Anonymous Allan, Burlington KS : 11:24 AM ET
In my opinion, most people in America don't worry about Canadian illegal immigrants compared to those from Mexico due to prejudice. Ask the average American what first comes to mind when thinking of a Mexican immigrant and he or she will probably say something along the lines of an uneducated, Hispanic, migrant worker out to steal jobs from a hard-working American. Ask an American what they think about Canadians and it's generally a Franglais (French/English) speaking, white person that wants to protest the war and maybe become a middle-class computer technician. Are these stereotypes true? No, thus why they're stereotypes. And all those people that want to deport all the illegal immigrants, well they can tear down the Statue of Liberty while they're at it.
Posted By Anonymous Emma Russell, Downingtown, PA : 11:32 AM ET
Your story smacks of paranoia. There are
easier points of entry than crossing the
Niagara River!
The proposed security measures, when
implemented will hit the tourism industry
hard on both sides, especially Blaine and
Bellingham, Wa.!
I'll bet there are Muslims in Detroit who
are under scrutiny as potential terrorists
as well as Toronto.
Posted By Anonymous Jan D. Horn, Victoria, B.C. : 11:38 AM ET
I really don't understand our Governments mentality when it comes to border security. The United States seems to be more concerned with illegal immigants that come to this Country because they want a better life for themselves, than the actual reasons border security is important.. Terrorism, drug traffic, etc, All of our borders need to be secure, Canada, Mexico, AND our Ports! I have yet to understand why this is so difficult for our elected officials to fix!
Posted By Anonymous Heather, NY : 11:53 AM ET
I have Canadian friends and they jokingly say Canada lets anyone in. It bothers them as much as it should bother us. Do we need a reminder that some of the 9/11 terrorists came in from Canada? Most of us, myself included, are including the northern border when we say we want border security. I live in AZ and while it's true Osama Bin Laden could walk through our desert into our country undetected, it's just as true that he could slip through the Canadian wilderness right into the country. We have two borders and both are equally important. Anyone who thinks illegal immigrants don't cross through Canada is sadly fooling themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 12:08 PM ET
The simple answer is to ensure Canadian and American immigration and asylum laws are equally strong. It is impossible to close the US/Canada border - too big, too much daily trade. That addresses the dirtbags that come to our continent.

Homegrown terrorists is another matter entirely. Canada and the US must not follow the lead of the UK and allow Muslims to isolate themselves from the rest of the population. We owe it to our great freedom loving countries to be vigilant and ensure Muslims embrace the values we cherish in North America.
Posted By Anonymous Mike de Pfyffer, Vancouver, BC : 12:35 PM ET
NONE of the 9/11 terrorist came in from Canada. They all came from other foreign countries into US airport. NONE! Check your facts, Melina.
Posted By Anonymous Mike de Pfyffer, Vancouver, BC : 12:43 PM ET
I find it ammusing that some American's think what happened this week has anything to do with them. These people, in case anyone was paying attention, were planning to attack Cananadians, not Americans. The targets were in Toronto and Ottawa. It's funny how politicians will twist the news for their cause. Canada is fighting terror with the U.S., lets give them a hand instead of threatening the seal our friends out and disturb tourism / trade.
Posted By Anonymous Paul Morse Houston TX : 1:23 PM ET
Blind trust is not the way to go these days. There is just to much at stake: homeland security, rise in population, and crime. Lets not fool ourselves. The United States is vulnerable as well. Who will ever forget the horror of 911? Canada must step up the patrolling of their borders. This is the world we live in today.
Posted By Anonymous Jesse Taylor Sacramento, California : 8:47 PM ET
America already has terrorists living there, and the same issue goes for Canada. Try not to make Canada look like the bad guy because we happen to have a few terrorist cells here, because it's likely America has just as many within its borders already.

And try to keep in mind, both nations should do their part in border security, and sure Canada could use more border security, but America could use some too. It's our border and the duty of both countries. The Canada and America should make a plan to secure the borders in a way that does not damage our economies and tourism industires.
Posted By Anonymous Michael McPhee, Parrsboro, Nova Scotia : 9:54 PM ET
Please understand, 9/11 terrorists DID NOT COME FROM CANADIAN BORDER! Also, Saddam Hussein DID NOT ATTACK AMERICA WITH PLANES - it was Al Qaeda terrorists from Saudia Arabia, where by the way Osama Bin Laden comes from. On 9/11, we were ALL New Yorkers. We cried with you through that horrific time & still do. Our borders are secure & we are in no way lenient with our immigration policy. Since I was a small child, in our minds & hearts, there is no border between our two countries, we are North Americans! The 17 mostly teenage punks arrested in Toronto as "terrorists" brought their weapons by car from the U.S. Their so-called training camp was in fact a farmer's field, where they practiced paint ball. They were too stupid to set up in a secure, well hidden area. Yes, they could have wreacked havoc around here, but our RCMP, NCIS & police did their jobs, although there was no need for 400 officers to capture this bunch & escort them to jail to await trial. Enough said I hope.
Posted By Anonymous Mary Lou, Toronto, Canada : 10:06 PM ET
Am I mistaken here, or do we STILL not know where the suspects were born? Maybe the border had nothing to do with this and judging from how young, and therefore obviously misguided these youths are, I would imagine most are "homegrown" Canadians. That, to me, is beyond BETRAYAL.
Posted By Anonymous Catherine, Vancouver, BC : 1:34 AM ET
I have been reading the comments posted and find it sad and disgusting that SOME Americans as well as the some politians believe that the American People should scared and alarmed with the border security. I guess Canada should of felt the same way when 911 happened but we were there to support you in one of the most horrific acts in US history. Canada arrested these guys before anything happened...the US did not !!!!
Posted By Anonymous Lauren, Kitchener ON : 10:57 PM ET
I'm a former army ranger,served 18 months with the 75th ranger battalion in viet nam, would gladly work as a contractor to help in any way possible to prevent any of our service personnel from harm.the governtment is to slow when reaction time is so important.after 9/11 we took to long to retaliate, we knew who did the attack.
Posted By Anonymous Robert Rosario,Morristown New Jersey : 7:10 AM ET
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