- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday told the nation's new head of border security that his agency needs to do a better job of protecting the nation against terrorists while not hampering legitimate trade and travel.
"For a year and a half now, Congress, the administration and the American people have searched for answers on how a large group of coordinated terrorists could operate for more than a year in the United States without being detected, seize control of four commercial jetliners and then use those jetliners as weapons of mass destruction without being stopped," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The California Democrat told Asa Hutchinson, the Department of Homeland Security's undersecretary for border and transportation security, that "blunders and missteps" by immigration officials were the result of an "unfocused, unconnected and unsophisticated" border security system that allowed the September 11 attacks.
"The benefit of hindsight provides a clear picture of how existing technologies might have been used to at least alert the appropriate officials that some, if not all, of the hijackers' visas should have been denied," she said, describing technology as a "vital component" to border security.
Mr. Hutchinson, whose agency began operating March 1, was called to testify on his plans to protect the nation's borders before a joint hearing of two Judiciary subcommittees on terrorism, technology and homeland security and on border security, immigration and citizenship.
"Technology is a critical tool that enables the hard-working men and women of the Department of Homeland Security to properly balance our national security imperative with the free flow of goods and peoples across our nation's borders," Mr. Hutchinson said in outlining several new technologies aimed at enhancing border security.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, told Mr. Hutchinson not enough was being done "to make those borders secure."
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on border security, immigration and citizenship, said the nation's immigration system was "overwhelmed and undermanned."
As border czar, Mr. Hutchinson, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, is responsible for securing the nation's borders and transportation infrastructures, bringing together a myriad of agencies to accomplish the task, and preventing terrorists from gaining entry to the country.
At DEA, he was criticized by some senior agency executives and rank-and-file agents for what they called a lack of leadership. They said he used his position to promote himself and presided over declines in enforcement operations and agency morale.
The White House Office of Management and Budget also said in a performance evaluation for the 2004 fiscal budget that DEA had been "unable to demonstrate progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the United States." The new budget calls for the smallest increase for the agency since 1988.
Mr. Hutchinson dismissed the report, saying it did not reflect a lack of success, only an inability to measure up to the OMB's standard of effectiveness. He said DEA needed to better define "success."
His appearance yesterday followed a report Monday by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General saying a lack of resources, faulty computer data and insufficient training prevented border inspectors from properly screening 500 million foreign visitors who passed last year through the nation's 220 ports of entry.
Despite a $19 million training program, the report said new inspectors received insufficient training to use computer systems that provide critical information on foreign visitors, including would-be terrorists.
Last month, the inspector general said in a separate report that immigration officials removed only 13 percent of the illegal aliens not in custody but facing deportation, and only 6 percent of those non-detained aliens from the seven nations listed as sponsors of international terrorism Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
That report said 350,000 non-detained aliens with deportation orders were in the country, failing to comply with court-ordered removals and avoiding detection.

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