- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

Americans do not have to give up their privacy or restrict commerce to attain border security, says a former counsel to the 9/11 commission, but the government does need to “effectively scrutinize” those seeking to enter the country.

“With efficient and streamlined security, privacy and commerce are both enhanced,” said Janice L. Kephart, part of the team that investigated counterterrorism efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and now-defunct U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“People and goods that should make it through the system in an efficient manner are more likely to do so when … travel documents go from dozens to one,” she said.

During its inquiry into the September 11 attacks, Ms. Kephart said, the commission found that travel documents were “as important as weapons,” and traveling worldwide posed a significant hurdle for terrorists because they had to “present themselves to border security officials or attempt to circumvent inspection points.”

Ms. Kephart, now an independent consultant, applauded passage by Congress of new laws that contain “many important terrorist travel provisions,” including the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require travelers from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada to have a passport or other secure document to enter or re-enter the United States. Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, a “North American Travel Card” issued by the State Department will act as a passport alternative but with the security features and vetting of a passport.

Ms. Kephart said that under the initiative, unnecessary inspections are less likely to occur and that terrorists would be less likely to try to gain entry to the United States and, if they do try, would be more likely to be caught.

Her concern about border security comes at a time that some business leaders and lawmakers are looking to repeal the newly mandated passport requirements, saying it would disrupt trade and hurt tourism — particularly on routes to and from Canada. Some have asked the government to abandon the passport plan.

Homeland Security officials, including Secretary Michael Chertoff, also have appeared to back off the plan, suggesting possible alternatives be studied.

But Ms. Kephart said terrorists with Canadian citizenship can move in and out of the United States “virtually unconcerned about detection” because existing border-security options do not require authenticated documents to verify identity or citizenship.

The result, she said, is that terrorists can easily present fake identify papers, including passports and other state and locally issued documents, to gain entry. She said the FBI and Canadian intelligence officials have found that al Qaeda recruiters are aggressively recruiting those with U.S., Canadian or Western European passports and a good command of the English language.

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