U.S. and Canada Seek to Reduce Border Bottlenecks
The United States and Canada are working to implement their “smart
borders” initiative, which is intended to reduce post-9/11
bottlenecks along the 5,000-mile border between the two nations,
according to Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. More than
200 million people cross that border every year.
“After 9/11, border delays were rampant, with every single
vehicle being checked,” Manley said. “U.S. Customs and
INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] agents put in long
overtime hours and had to be supported by the National Guard. But
the lines continued. Some reported up to 18 hours delay at the border.
… The situation was unsustainable.”
The “smart borders” plan is designed to speed things
up, Manley told a recent Canadian-American Business Council meeting
in Washington, D.C. For example, he said, the FAST (Free and Secure
Trade) program will help commercial shipments to move more quickly
through border checkpoints.
Under the FAST program—which will be in place in the six
largest border crossings by the end of the year—commercial
drivers, carriers and importers will be prescreened. Low-risk trucks
will receive smart cards, containing electronic data that allows
them to use dedicated lanes to cross the border.
Another program, called NEXUS, allows individual travelers, who
have been pre-approved and deemed low-risk, to use dedicated lanes.
Already in operation at four border crossings, it permits “a
businessperson or teacher living in Windsor, but working in Detroit,”
to have access to a dedicated lane, Manley explained. NEXUS is being
expanded to air travel in a pilot program called NEXUS-Air, which
will begin operating at airports in early 2003, he said.
The two countries also have developed a plan to place joint U.S.-Canadian
border-enforcement teams in 14 regions along their common border.
These teams, Manley said, “will work together to shut down
terrorist and organized criminal activity across our border.”
Manley said that he believes that the FAST and NEXUS programs could
be broadened to include shipments of food, plants and animals. “Maybe,”
he said, “we should call it the FAST food program.”
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Canada Ponders Role in NORTHCOM
As the U.S. Northern Command was being activated in October, officials
in Canada were trying to reassure their citizens that the new entity
will not threaten Canadian sovereignty in any way. Instead, they
emphasized, military cooperation between U.S. and Canada will continue
as it has in the past.
NORTHCOM, as it is known, was created to defend the continental
United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands against
enemy attacks. Its area of operations includes all of Canada, Mexico
and the surrounding coastal waters, out to 500 miles.
The head of NORTHCOM will command U.S. forces in the area, but
not those of other nations, explained Lt. Gen. George Macdonald,
vice chief of the Canadian Defence Staff. Instead, he told a parliamentary
hearing, the NORTHCOM commander “will be responsible for security
cooperation and military coordination with Canada and Mexico, just
as his counterparts in the other regional commands must do with
the countries [within their assigned areas].” The other regional
units are the European, Pacific, Central and Southern Commands.
NORTHCOM includes the North American Aerospace Command, or NORAD,
which is a binational organization, with both U.S. and Canadian
forces, Macdonald said. Traditionally, it has a U.S. commander and
a Canadian deputy. This arrangement, he said, will continue.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks provided “an excellent example
of how well NORAD works as a binational military command,”
Macdonald said. Two Canadian officers were in key NORAD decision-making
positions on that morning.
“Once it was clear that the U.S. was under terrorist attack,
[the two officers], without the benefit of an off-the-shelf contingency
plan, took steps to coordinate the military response and to establish
combat air patrols to guard against additional attacks,” Macdonald
said. “Their actions may have saved lives.”
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Project 25 Sets Standards for Law Enforcement Radios
Project 25 is a new federal initiative established to allow federal
law enforcement entities to talk to one another by radio. It is
a set of standards for “over-the-air protocol.” The
project was established to smooth communications difficulties, such
as when one law enforcement entity, like the Secret Service, cannot
communicate with another agency like the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
because both agencies have their own encrypted radio systems.
Defense contractor Thales Communications Inc. is providing a radio
that was developed for the Defense Department. “We took our
defense radio and developed it for public safety,” said Mitch
Herbets, chief executive officer of the company, based in Clarksburg,
Md. Thales Communications Inc. is a $10 billion communications conglomerate,
and is the U.S. proxy company for Thales International, headquartered
Project 25 aims to enhance interoperability between agencies such
as the Defense, Treasury and Justice Departments, and may play a
role in the future Department of Homeland Security.
“These are interoperable public safety communications, and
they (our radios) comply with the U.S. government standard,”
Thales’ multi-band intra team (MBITR) radio is currently
deployed to U.S. troops engaged in military actions around the world.
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Massive Terrorist Attack Could Occur Within Two Years
The United States could see a large-scale terrorist attack on its
soil in about two years, according to the author of the book “Jihad
in America.” It takes Al-Qaeda operatives two to two and a
half years to regroup and plan attacks, said Steven Emerson, who
is executive director of the Investigative Project on Public Television.
Each one of the attacks, he said, “is trying to surpass the
previous one in scope and its damage,” he said.
“We could assume, although I don’t have any empirical
evidence to suggest this, that there are cells that are being instituted
right now, or that are in place that are tasked with…a future
attack on American soil that will be more devastating than the 9/11
Emerson made his comments at the National Security Strategy and
Policy conference organized by the Institute for Foreign Policy
“I have no broad intelligence indicating that such cells
really exist with the particular tasking of this attack,”
he insisted. However, he said that recent arrests and prosecutions
of alleged Al-Qaeda operatives in Buffalo, Detroit, Portland, Seattle
and Chicago, make it clear that the structure of Al-Qaeda is still
intact in the United States.
Moreover, he added, “the decentralized nature of the network
means that we have a situation where locally initiated cells, without
being tethered to a command and control in a traditional linear
way, are able or willing to carry out attacks without any instructions
or commands from above.”
— • — • —
Ex-Government Officials Participate in Terrorism Exercise
“Silent Vector,” an elaborately staged terrorism preparedness
exercise, was organized by the Arlington, Va.-based Anser Institute
for Homeland Security, and the Washington-based Center for Strategic
and International Studies (CSIS). The exercise focused on how the
government should handle an intelligence warning of a credible threat
against energy-related facilities, possibly nuclear power plants,
according to a release by CSIS.
Silent Vector took place at Andrews Air Force Base in October,
and had an impressive array of participants. Former Senate Armed
Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn acted as the U.S. president
in the exercise. Also playing roles were former Defense Secretary
William Cohen, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former FBI Director
William Sessions, former White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, former
Virginia Gov. James Gilmore and current New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.
McGreevey was asked to react as if he were in charge of his state
during a real crisis, and Gilmore, Cohen, Lockhart drew on their
past experiences in government to role-play what actual government
leaders would do in such as crisis.
— • — • —
U.S. Should Be Better Prepared for Chemical Attacks
A chemical attack is much more likely to occur in the United States
than a nuclear attack, and that is what the nation should be prepared
for domestically, said Stephen Younger, director of the Defense
Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
“For domestic terrorism, I may worry more about chemical
and biological weapons,” he said. “Nuclear weapons are
more difficult to acquire, more difficult to detonate. Nuclear security
needs to be improved, but it is not such a disaster as we are made
“What worries me even more are the very large quantities
of poisonous chemicals that are stored and transported in this country
everyday,” he told a conference organized by the Institute
for Foreign Policy Analysis. “The release of those chemicals
into the environment can cause great damage and it could bring hundreds
of thousands of fatalities …and there is nothing we can do
He explained that once those chemical materials are released into
the environment, they spread very quickly. “Unless you are
a marathon runner, it is unlikely you can get away from them,”
“Biological weapons can cause great havoc, but on the other
hand they are treatable if they are found in time, not with the
perfect efficiency, but you can limit the casualties,” he
said. Even though the threat of smallpox was hyped in the media,
Younger said he believed that anthrax remains the biggest biological
As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, Younger insisted that
those pose a significant threat to U.S. troops.
“In a military sense, I worry about nuclear weapons most,
the reason being that nuclear weapons are a serious and unavoidable
threat to our troops, he said. “Our combatants were trained
to operate in chemical and bio environments, but once a nuclear
weapon has been detonated nature takes its course. [However] that
is not to say the chemical and biological attacks do not represent
— • — • —
Are There Too Many Homeland Security Entities?
Combating terrorism should not be split between the National Security
Council and the Office of Homeland Security, according to a former
assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity
“Combating terrorism is difficult enough without having to
divide between the two high-level councils in the country,”
said James Locher.
Locher said that the administration is heading towards a period
of “unnecessary duplication between the Department of Homeland
Security and the [current] Office of Homeland Security.”
“I would not mind if the Office of Homeland Security stayed
for a while to help the new department get established, but eventually
it does need to disappear,” Locher said.
Locher also recommended adding the secretary of homeland security
to the National Security Council, and then eliminate the Homeland
Security Council and the Office of Homeland Security. Locher added
that the National Security Council should add two other new members—the
secretary of the treasury and attorney general.