GAO: U.S., Canada can’t agree on fingerprints, info sharing

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GAO report

Negotiations between U.S. and Canadian officials about a proposed joint border management office broke down last year because the officials disagreed on the authority to collect travelers’ fingerprints and share their information, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The Homeland Security Department began negotiating with Canadian authorities in 2005 on the possibility of operating a shared border management office in Fort Erie, Ontario, to ease congestion at the 17-acre Buffalo border control office. The Buffalo site cannot expand without affecting many nearby historic homes. The Canadian site offers 70 acres of land for expansion.

DHS and Canadian officials jointly terminated talks in April 2007 because they could not resolve several major issues, including U.S. demands for sovereign authority to take fingerprints and share applicants’ information with law enforcement agencies, the GAO report states.

“DHS stated that it would not have been able to exercise the same law enforcement authorities in Canada that it currently has at ports of entry in the United States,” GAO concluded.

The Customs and Border Protection agency has authority to fingerprint anyone entering the United States. However, Canadian officials said border officials could not collect travelers’ fingerprints unless they volunteered or had been charged with a crime.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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