- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

The United States has sharply intensified inspections and anti-terrorist surveillance along its Canadian and Mexican borders, reshaping the faces of two of the most open international frontiers perhaps for years to come.
More inspectors on more overtime are asking more questions at the overland border stations. They are opening more trunks and peering at cars more often with imaging equipment. More agents are taking to the air, patrolling the vast stretches of forest, desert and waterway along more than 6,000 miles of border that the United States shares with its two neighbors.
Waits up to 15 hours have been reported at border crossings. Most travelers are accepting heavier security with patience and patriotism, but some border towns feel pangs from their pocketbooks. Some Americans favor even more inspectors and stricter screening to snag terrorists before they strike.
Todd Spencer, an executive for a Missouri-based truckers' group, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said he has long felt too many people cross from Canada with questionable papers. He said he was happy about the extra security.
"If it takes longer to do the job, then we're going to live with it," he said.
On a typical day, more than 1 million passengers in 350,000 private vehicles, along with 30,000 commercial trucks, rumble past more than 150 established U.S. border sites with Canada and Mexico, according to Customs data.
The three nations have been dropping travel and commercial barriers over the years to forge the biggest free-trade zone on the planet. Cross-border business between the United States and its largest trading partner, Canada, has expanded to $1.4 billion a day.
Meanwhile, Canada's more welcoming immigration and refugee laws have turned it into a fund-raising and staging base for some terrorists, say officials on both sides of the border. "Anyone who wants to head to our country for the wrong reasons will head to the easiest border to cross. In the past, that often has been Canada," said Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican involved in border issues.
The 4,000-mile U.S.-Canadian border, with its many wild expanses, is hard and costly to patrol thoroughly.
Border agents periodically have snared people suspected of terrorism. In 1988, three reputed members of a Syrian group of car bombers were caught with explosives in Vermont. In 1996, authorities in upstate New York stopped a man who reportedly belonged to the Abu Nidal terrorist band. In 1999, authorities caught an Algerian as he tried to enter Washington state in a car packed with explosives. He later was convicted of smuggling and terrorism for his planned bomb attack on Los Angeles International Airport during New Year's 2000 celebrations.
News reports also have alluded to suspected links to Canada for some of the suicide hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The FBI refused public comment.
Within an hour of the attacks, U.S. authorities went on their highest alert at both the Canadian and Mexican borders. Since then, travelers and truckers have been answering many more questions about themselves and their travel plans and enduring more cold stares.
Canadian nurses and others who commute to Detroit area hospitals were delayed up to six hours. Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer said at least 150 more immigration agents are needed at the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.
Some warned against slowing travel too much for better security. "The knee-jerk reaction is to put a tourniquet on transportation arteries," said Stephen Flynn, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York think tank. "You cut off the lifeline of the U.S. and Canadian economies. The cure is worse than the disease."

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