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The U.S. ambassador to Canada is calling for smarter border security to target terrorists and smugglers and to spend “less time inspecting my grandmother.”

“Some think the only thing we worry about is terrorism, but it deals as much with everyday law enforcement than it does with terrorism,” Ambassador David Jacobson told business executives this week in Calgary, Alberta.

The United States and Canada, which share the world’s longest border, are working on plans to streamline security measures to make border crossings safer and more efficient, he said.

About 58,000 people cross the 5,500-mile border every day, and the two countries do about $1.2 billion a day in trade.

Mr. Jacobson explained that one proposal would require inspecting trucks and sealing them with tamper-proof security devices at checkpoints far from the border to relieve cross-border congestion.

“If we have a truckload of goods, and we inspect it 50 miles away from the border, and it proceeds to the border sealed, … it’s going to be able to go through much more quickly than if the truck has to be inspected at the border,” he said.

“We need to spend more time doing things that are actually going to yield results and less time inspecting my grandmother.”

Other issues involve U.S. and Canadian border officials sharing sensitive information on suspicious travelers before they reach an immigration checkpoint.

“We need to look beyond borders to uncover threats,” Mr. Jacobson said. “We need to look at borders not as our first line of defense, but as the last.”

In May, the commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency told a Senate hearing that the United States has apprehended more suspected terrorists coming across the Canadian border than the Mexican one.

“In terms of the terrorist threat, it’s commonly accepted that the more significant threat [is from the northern border],” Alan Bersin said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, refugees and border security.

Smuggling is a serious issue on both sides of the border. Canadians complain about illegal drugs, cigarettes and firearms smuggled from the United States, while U.S. officials are more concerned with drug-trafficking from Canada.

“It’s a real problem,” Mr. Jacobson said of gun-smuggling into Canada. “It’s something we’re dealing with in the U.S. at the Canadian border and the Mexican border.”


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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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