After I ran a series of posts on my visit to the Arizona border, the ACLU took me to task for making the case that better border security is a good idea. In the last ACLU post they were particularly irate that I found anything worthy in the technology demonstration project called “P-28” which looked at integrating sensors to provide Border Patrol officers a “common operating picture.” The goal was to get the right information to the right person at the right time to do the right thing; identifying smuggler routes and then directing officers to interdict illegal border crossers and use the information gleaned from analyzing what is going on to disrupt smuggler operations.
Adding technology is suppossed to offer an alternative to the way interdiction is done now–officers scour the desert in 100 plus degree heat looking for footprints and trash left behind so they can track down people through miles of open, often dangerous terrain. They often do not know if they are on the trail of human traffickers or drug smugglers that may take a shot at them or a platoon of illegals who might require urgent medical attention from exposure.
The ACLU finds all this objectionable arguing, P-28 is little more than a cash-cow for contractors. Apparently, the expertise of the ACLU now extends beyond civil rights issues to cover experimentation, technology integration, acquisition, and border law enforcement techniques.
In contrast, my conclusions were based on talking to Border Patrol officers that have actually used the technology and have helped explain to the contractors how to make it better serve the agency’s needs. Now, this is not a defense to how efficiently and effectively the Department of Homeland Security got to the point where it is today. The point is these technologies are needed and useful.
Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security agrees. A recent Reuters piece noted that the Border Patrol has asked for enough technology to cover about 50 miles of the Tucson-border area, some of the most hostile and heavily trafficked terrain on the border. If the technology is implemented in the manner the Border Patrol requires and is employed appropriately it will help make the border safer and more secure in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.