Technology urged to stop tunnels at borders

More tunnel detection technology and information sharing could help stop smugglers who have have built dozens of cross-border tunnels for illegal entry into the United States, a Defense Department report says .

Ninety-three tunnels were discovered from 1990 to Nov. 20, 2008, according to a new briefing report by a U.S. Northern Command Task Force. Portions of the report were posted on the Web Feb. 23 by the Federation of American Scientists. The command warned that the tunnels could become a prime entry point for threats and recommended increased use of tunnel detection technologies as well as focused intelligence gathering and information sharing to counteract the problem.

Ninety-two of the tunnels were in California and Arizona, including 53 in Nogales, Ariz., and 29 in San Diego during that period. One was in Washington State. New tunnels continue to be built. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 16, 2008, six U.S.-Mexico tunnels were discovered, according to an announcement last Dec. 16 from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The tunnel activity may be increasing as a result of construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fencing, suggests a May 2008 report from the Congressional Research Service. Although the fence is deterring some illegal border crossings, apparently it is driving smugglers and illegal entrants to other locations and other technologies.

“Another unintended consequence of the border fencing has been the proliferation of tunnels dug underneath the border,” states the CRS report.

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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