Heritage analysts Jena Baker McNeill and Diem Nguyen report:
On January 15, the United States Northern Command Joint Task Force-North accidentally released to the public a briefing that expressed concerns over terrorists entering the U.S. from Canada. While the report was taken offline and out of public view shortly thereafter, this briefing is one of many reports centered on U.S./Canadian security policies, including a recent request by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for information relating to the mechanisms and programs currently in place at the U.S. northern border.
While the recommendations of the U.S. Northern Command briefing were not made public, the recent focus on the northern border has left many citizens from both countries concerned that the U.S. might decide to increase security measures at the border in a way that would hamper trade and travel. Initiatives to secure the United States from potential terrorists in Canada should extend beyond the border and center on information-sharing and other kinds of anti-terrorism cooperation, instituting processes and programs that respect both nations’ sovereignty, and addresses common concerns–without hindering either nation’s economic viability.
McNeill and Nguyen recommend:
- Promote anti-terrorism information sharing. Information sharing is the most effective way of tracking down dangerous people and protecting the country from attack. Information on a variety of things, such as criminal databases and customs information, should be shared between the two countries to enhance their anti-terrorism capabilities and to arrest those who seek to do harm.
- Expand cross-border law enforcement programs. Working together on law enforcement initiatives will make each country’s homeland security much more efficient. Law enforcement can often disrupt terrorist activity before it starts, and improving cooperation in this area will bear fruit on both sides of the border. A great example of this kind of program is the Integrated Border Enforcement Team, a joint program that targets dangerous people and goods by sharing intelligence and law enforcement capabilities from various agencies. Similar cooperation efforts should be used for security missions.
- Coordinate visa policies. For example, U.S. and Canada should offer visa waiver status for the same list of countries. Coordinated visa policies will ensure that both countries institute similar security mechanisms in a way that is in compliance with America’s security standards.
- Encourage private investment in infrastructure. Inadequate infrastructure at the border further jeopardizes security. The U.S. should find ways to encourage the private sector to invest in infrastructure (such as toll bridges) at the northern border. This will not only speed the processing of goods and services but will ensure that terrorists are not sneaking through because of gaps in ailing infrastructure. One way this can be accomplished is through the SAFETY Act, which provides liability protection for companies developing homeland security technologies. This protection is only for companies in the United States and greatly limits the deployment of these necessary technologies. By encouraging similar protections in Canada, DHS can help spur innovation and private investment in infrastructure at the border.