Response to ‘Watching the Border: The Virtual Fence’

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I watched an excellent episode of CBS News’ 60 Minutes this evening and I have attached a link to the program and a copy of the transcript of the segment that focused on the failures of our government through 3 administrations to secure our nation’s border that is supposed to separate the United States from Mexico.

CBS News correspondent Steve Kroft did this report. Here is a bit of an aside you may find interesting about Steve Kroft:

Several days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a producer who was, at the time working extremely closely with Steve and was assisting him with the production of the report, contacted me to ask me about the immigration component to the attacks. His producer’s name was Trevor Nelson. Trevor and I spoke many times as 60 Minutes sought to make sense of the attacks that resulted in the slaughter of some 3,000 innocent victims on that late autumn morning more than 8 years ago.

I made it clear to Trevor that while I could not appear on camera inasmuch as I was still a senior special agent of the INS, although, at the time I had been sidelined with a knee injury I had suffered on duty, I was, however, was willing to discuss with him in broad terms, the general failings of the INS to secure our nation’s borders and deal with the lack of integrity to the immigration system in general.

What I had to tell Trevor actually served as the foundation for much of my testimony when I appeared before a succession of Congressional hearings in the weeks, months and years after 9/11.

I remember watching the broadcast featuring Steve Kroft that aired shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and was quite pleased by how he covered the story.

Tragically Trevor Nelson died not long after that, the victim of meningitis at the age of 34.

This evening, Steve Kroft once again provided an insightful report on the failures to secure the southern border of the United States.

If you click on the link you will not only be able to see the original transcript online, you will also be able to watch the entire video of Steve Kroft’s report.

Steve Kroft did not mince words. He started out by making the following statement:

(CBS) Terrorism and homeland security have been back in the news the past few weeks, and once again the focus has been on intelligence failures and airport security. But the easiest way for terrorists to get into the United States may well be across the nation’s porous 2,000 mile border with Mexico. And it is no secret.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations have revealed that hundreds of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and countries associated with terrorism have entered the country through Mexico, and- according to a study done for the Border Patrol, around 90 percent of the people who try to get in that way eventually make it. President Clinton built a wall to try and stop it, and President Bush tried to tackle the problem with technology, initiating an ambitious program he called a “virtual fence,” that would allow the U.S. to visually monitor most of the border.

The bureaucrats at Homeland Security changed the name of the program to the “Secure Border Initiative Network” or SBInet, and after three years and a billion dollars, 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft decided to see how it was going.

The report was quite extensive for a news report that had to fit into a segment that ran less than 20 minutes. Just about every second of the report was fact-filled and offered a no-nonsense report about the fact that even after spending more than one billion dollars, our border is still not secure. Among the people who were interviewed for this report was Richard Stanna, the GAO’s Director for issues relating to DHS. I have testified with Richard before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims and he generally “gets it” and makes his position clear on many of these issues. He certainly did not hold back this evening.

Expert after expert painted a picture of incompetence in which our border security is still an elusive objective that has yet to be accomplished.

While Steve Kroft focused on the failures of the “Virtual Fence” now known as SBINet (Secure Border Initiative Network) he did not get into other factors that have conspired to prevent our borders from being truly secured. He failed, for example, to discuss the lack of resources for the Border Patrol. He failed to note that when an illegal alien succeeds in getting past the Border Patrol, (his report indicated that the Border Patrol estimates that 90% of those who seek to run our borders ultimately succeed) that there are few ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) special agents who will seek to arrest them!

As I watched Steve Kroft’s report Sunday evening I was reminded of how I had, on a number of occasions when I appeared at various venues including television and radio programs as well as before live audiences, stated that a “Virtual fence would stop virtually no one!”

In this deadly game of “Hide & Seek” while the illegal aliens hide, including the criminals and terrorists among them, just about no one is seeking because this is such an extreme lack of resources at ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as well as a lack of will and leadership to be found at the highest levels of what passes for leadership in Congress and the administration. Never forget that Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and third in the succession to the Presidency has declared the enforcement of the immigration laws to be Un-American!

Steve also did not get into the ease with which the terrorists and others are often able to acquire lawful status in our country because USCIS is unable and, it would appear, relatively unconcerned that fraud levels are stratospheric!

Steve also did not go into the way that visas are often issued to aliens who should not receive them- look no further than the debacle concerning the unsuccessful attempted bombing of the Delta Airlines jet over Detroit this past Christmas.

Finally, Steve did not delve into the Visa Waiver Program.

Actually, I am glad that he did not go into these other issues this evening because there would have been no way of exploring all of those issues in so short a period of time. His report did do a thorough job of exploring the myriad failures of SBINet.

I just hope that he will soon turn the spotlight of truth on the other components of the immigration system to imperil our nation and our citizens each and every day enabling criminals and, no doubt terrorists and their supporters to enter our country and embed themselves in communities across our nation from coast to coast and border to border hiding in plain sight among us.

Any politician who refuses to work to secure our borders and create an immigration system that has integrity is either corrupt or too dumb to keep his (her) job. Any politician, irrespective of party affiliation who favors Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the outrageous betrayal that this would represent given the national security implications that this program would have, should be shown the door at the next election!

If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same.

Later this year, each and every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection. Later this year more than one third of the members of the United States Senate will have to face their constituents. They need to be reminded that they work for us, We the People!

However, the practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there. The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!

The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians. I implore you to get involved!

Any American who has lost his job certainly has enough time on his (her) hands to get involved!

Any American who fears the loss of his job must make effective use of his spare time to make certain he keeps his job! (Remember, the job save may be your own!) If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation! You need to politely but pointedly, demand to know what they are doing to protect our nation. You need to ask them how they are protecting you and your families. You can also forward this commentary to them and ask them to watch the 60 Minutes report that served as the basis for my commentary. All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are! We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue! You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem! Democracy is not a spectator sport! Lead, follow or get out of the way!

Watching the Border: The Virtual Fence, Steve Kroft Reports on The High-Tech Project That Is Supposed to Secure The U.S.-Mexican Border Produced by Keith Sharman