Tons of drugs, heroin, cocaine, meth, you name it come across our borders daily.
Human trafficking goes on daily.
And someone with TB just sneaks across our Canadian border.
Below are the facts from the GAO:
Progress, Weaknesses in Traveler Inspections Exist at Our Nation's Ports of Entry
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for keeping terrorists and other dangerous people from entering the country while also facilitating the cross-border movement of millions of travelers. CBP carries out this responsibility at 326 air, sea, and land ports of entry. In response to a congressional request, GAO examined CBP traveler inspection efforts, the progress made, and the challenges that remain in staffing and training at ports of entry, and the progress CBP has made in developing strategic plans and performance measures for its traveler inspection program. To conduct its work, GAO reviewed and analyzed CBP data and documents related to inspections, staffing, and training, interviewed managers and officers, observed inspections at eight major air and land ports of entry, and tested inspection controls at eight small land ports of entry. GAO's testimony is based on a report GAO issued November 5, 2007.
CBP has had some success in identifying inadmissible aliens and other violators, but weaknesses in its operations increase the potential that terrorists and inadmissible travelers could enter the country. In fiscal year 2006, CBP turned away over 200,000 inadmissible aliens and interdicted other violators. Although CBP's goal is to interdict all violators, CBP estimated that several thousand inadmissible aliens and other violators entered the country though ports of entry in fiscal year 2006. Weaknesses in 2006 inspection procedures, such as not verifying the citizenship and admissibility of each traveler, contribute to failed inspections. Although CBP took actions to address these weaknesses, subsequent follow-up work conducted by GAO months after CBP's actions found that weaknesses such as those described above still existed. In July 2007, CBP issued detailed procedures for conducting inspections including requiring field office managers to assess compliance with these procedures. However, CBP has not established an internal control to ensure field office managers share their assessments with CBP headquarters to help ensure that the new procedures are consistently implemented across all ports of entry and reduce the risk of failed traveler inspections. CBP developed a staffing model that estimates it needs up to several thousand more staff. Field office managers said that staffing shortages affected their ability to carry out anti-terrorism programs and created other vulnerabilities in the inspections process. CBP recognizes that officer attrition has impaired its ability to attain budgeted staffing levels and is in the process of developing a strategy to help curb attrition. CBP has made progress in developing training programs; however, it does not measure the extent to which it provides training to all who need it and whether new officers demonstrate proficiency in required skills. CBP issued a strategic plan for operations at its ports of entry and has collected performance data that can be used to measure its progress in achieving its strategic goals. However, current performance measures do not gauge CBP effectiveness in apprehending inadmissible aliens and other violators, a key strategic goal.
- Aviation Security: Vulnerabilities Exposed Through Covert Testing of TSA's Passenger Screening Process
- GAO-08-48T November 15, 2007
- Highlights Page (PDF) Full Report (PDF, 10 pages) Accessible Text
In August 2006, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) substantially modified its passenger screening policies based on the alleged transatlantic bomb plot uncovered by British authorities. With the aim of closing security gaps revealed by the alleged plot, the revised policies severely restricted the amount of liquids, gels, and aerosols TSA allowed passengers to bring through the checkpoint. At the Committee's request, GAO tested whether security gaps exist in the passenger screening process. To perform this work, GAO attempted to (1) obtain the instructions and components needed to create devices that a terrorist might use to cause severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of passengers and (2) test whether GAO investigators could pass through airport security checkpoints undetected with all the components needed to create the devices. GAO conducted covert testing at a nonrepresentative selection of 19 airports across the country. After concluding its tests, GAO provided TSA with two timely briefings to help it take corrective action. In these briefings, GAO suggested that TSA consider several actions to improve its passenger screening program, including aspects of human capital, processes, and technology. GAO is currently performing a more systematic review of these issues and expects to issue a comprehensive public report with recommendations for TSA in early 2008.
GAO investigators succeeded in passing through TSA security screening checkpoints undetected with components for several improvised explosive devices (IED) and an improvised incendiary device (IID) concealed in their carry-on luggage and on their persons. The components for these devices and the items used to conceal the components were commercially available. Specific details regarding the device components and the methods of concealment GAO used during its covert testing were classified by TSA; as such, they are not discussed in this testimony. Using publicly available information, GAO investigators identified two types of devices that a terrorist could use to cause severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of passengers. The first device was an IED made up of two parts--a liquid explosive and a low-yield detonator. Although the detonator itself could function as an IED, investigators determined that it could also be used to set off a liquid explosive and cause even more damage. In addition, the second device was an IID created by combining commonly available products (one of which is a liquid) that TSA prohibits in carry-on luggage. Investigators obtained the components for these devices at local stores and over the Internet for less than $150. Tests that GAO performed at a national laboratory in July 2007, in addition to prior tests in February 2006 that GAO performed in partnership with a law enforcement organization in the Washington, D.C., metro area, clearly demonstrated that a terrorist using these devices could cause severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of passengers. Investigators then devised methods to conceal the components for these devices from TSA transportation security officers, keeping in mind TSA policies related to liquids and other items, including prohibited items. By using concealment methods for the components, two GAO investigators demonstrated that it is possible to bring the components for several IEDs and one IID through TSA checkpoints and onto airline flights without being challenged by transportation security officers. In most cases, transportation security officers appeared to follow TSA procedures and used technology appropriately; however, GAO uncovered weaknesses in TSA screening procedures and other vulnerabilities as a result of these tests. For example, although transportation security officers generally enforced TSA's policies, investigators were able to bring a liquid component of the IID undetected through checkpoints by taking advantage of weaknesses identified in these policies. These weaknesses were identified based on a review of public information. TSA determined that specific details regarding these weaknesses are sensitive security information and are therefore not discussed in this testimony. GAO did not notice any difference between the performance of private screeners and transportation security officers during our tests.
- Maritime Security: The SAFE Port Act: Status and Implementation One Year Later
- GAO-08-126T October 30, 2007
- Highlights Page (PDF) Full Report (PDF, 51 pages) Accessible Text
Because the safety and economic security of the United States depend in substantial part on the security of its 361 seaports, the United States has a vital national interest in maritime security. The Security and Accountability for Every Port Act (SAFE Port Act), modified existing legislation and created and codified new programs related to maritime security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have key maritime security responsibilities. This testimony synthesizes the results of GAO's completed work and preliminary observations from GAO's ongoing work related to the SAFE Port Act pertaining to (1) overall port security, (2) security at individual facilities, and (3) cargo container security. To perform this work GAO visited domestic and overseas ports; reviewed agency program documents, port security plans, and post-exercise reports; and interviewed officials from the federal, state, local, private, and international sectors.
Federal agencies have improved overall port security efforts by establishing committees to share information with local port stakeholders, taking steps to establish interagency operations centers to monitor port activities, conducting operations such as harbor patrols and vessel escorts, writing port-level plans to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks, testing such plans through exercises, and assessing the security at foreign ports. However, these agencies face resource constraints and other challenges trying to meet the SAFE Port Act's requirements to expand these activities. For example, the Coast Guard faces budget constraints in trying to expand its current command centers and include other agencies at the centers. Similarly, private facilities and federal agencies have taken action to improve security at about 3,000 individual facilities by writing facility-specific security plans, inspecting facilities to determine compliance with their plans, and developing special identification cards for workers to help prevent terrorists from getting access to secure areas. Federal agencies face challenges trying to meet the act's requirements to expand the scope or speed the implementation of such activities. For example, the Transportation Security Administration missed the act's deadline to implement the identification card program at 10 selected ports because of delays in testing equipment and procedures. Federal programs related to the security of cargo containers have also improved as agencies are enhancing systems to identify high-risk cargo, expanding partnerships with other countries to screen containers before they depart for the United States, and working with international organizations to develop a global framework for container security. Federal agencies face challenges implementing container security aspects of the SAFE Port Act and other legislation. For example, Customs and Border Protection must test and implement a new program to scan 100 percent of all incoming containers overseas--a departure from its existing risk-based programs.