By Michael Gormley
ALBANY, N.Y. — U.S. senators from states along and near the nation's northern border requested Thursday that the Department of Defense provide military radar to crack down on drug trafficking by low-flying aircraft.
Drug smuggling across the border with Canada is much more prevalent than indicated by the number of cases in which drugs have been seized, according to a federal report from November and recent media stories that Sen. Charles Schumer of New York cited.
Less than 1 percent of the 4,000-mile border is considered under the operational control of U.S. border officials, a General Accountability Office report found this month. Most areas of the northern border are remote and inaccessible by traditional patrol methods, the report said.
Customs and Border Protection believes it can detect illegal entries, respond and deal with them on only about 32 miles of the northern border. The Border Patrol was aware of all illegal border crossings on only 25 percent of the border, or 1,000 out of 4,000 miles, the GAO report said.
Some members of Canada's Parliament have dismissed American worries about security along the countries' border. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said Canada has improved security.
Use of radar in Washington state from 2005 to 2008 by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security was considered a success in identifying low-flying, drug-smuggling aircraft that hadn't been previously identified.
Other senators pushing the effort are Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jon Tester of Montana and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. A letter to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security will be sent and released Thursday, Schumer told The Associated Press.
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"Given what is at stake in combating illegal cross-border activity, and given its past success, I write to ask your agencies to coordinate in determining whether there are any available military technological assets anywhere around the world that can be more effectively deployed along our northern border to combat drug smuggling _ as was successfully done during Operation Outlook," the senators wrote in the letter.