By DAVID CRARY
AP National Writer
U.S. authorities tightened their checks of traffic from Canada on Monday as debate over the long and hard-to-police border intensified following the weekend arrests of 17 Muslim Canadians in a suspected Ontario terror plot.Calls for tougher security measures were countered by pleas from business and civic leaders on both sides to keep border crossings as quick and simple as possible.
"Terrorism is clearly part of the North American environment whether we like it or not, but closing down the border is not going to eliminate it," said Arlene White, a Canadian who is executive director of the Binational Tourism Alliance in the Niagara Falls-Buffalo area.
In Washington, U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said patrol stations along the 4,000-mile border _ especially those adjoining Ontario _ are on high alert because of the arrests, although investigators say the suspects' alleged plot apparently involved only targets in Canada.
U.S. agents already deployed to the Canadian border will work overtime and some will be moved closer to the areas where the arrests occurred, Aguilar said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Kristi Clemens said some traffic headed into the United States would under go tougher procedures at the 89 ports of entry along the border.
"The current events may result in some additional questions of commuters and travels," said Clemens. She also said, without elaborating, that her agency has added some "enforcement capabilities" following the arrests.
Security along the border has been increasing ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: new surveillance camera systems, new scanning devices to check on trucks' cargo, and many more agents on duty.
But concerns remain high among some politicians and experts, such as David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He contends that Canada's immigration policies are too lax, enabling more than 50 terrorist organizations to have a presence in the country.
"Canadians are determined to keep the border open at almost any cost, because so much of Canada's economy relies on U.S. trade," said Harris, who now is a private security consultant in Ottawa. "The general theory of the trade devotees is the border should be open all the time, at virtually any cost _ but you can only enjoy your prosperity if you're alive to do so."
Associated Press writer Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.