(Part 6) GAO Presentation On Internal DHS Checkpoints

Part 6 of a 14 part video series highlighting a town hall meeting organized by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appears above. The meeting was held on September 2, 2009 in Green Vally, Arizona to discuss/debate a recent GAO report on internal suspicionless homeland security checkpoints.

In this video, Tucson sector Border Patrol Chief Robert Gilbert finishes his response regarding the GAO report followed by questions from the audience.

Highlights from this video appear below:

  • Chief Gilbert admits that plans for a $200 million dollar soon-to-be remodeled Port of Entry in Nogales, AZ are driving the design for the $25 million dollar permanent checkpoint planned for I-19 South of Tucson.
  • Gilbert misrepresents the nature of the recent increase in drug seizures at internal checkpoints by claiming the nine tactical checkpoints operated in the Tucson sector last year were cutting off egress routes for border drug traffic. We know however that many of the checkpoints have not been setup along nexus points for border traffic but rather secondary roads never intersecting the border. We also know the increased interdiction rate is due to an increase in the seizure of small amounts of personal use marijuana from U.S. citizens who never crossed the border.
  • Gilbert states the nine tactical checkpoints in the Tucson sector last year were operated 24/7 and only required a few brief shutdowns for safety reasons. This directly contradicted Richard Stana’s statement that permanent checkpoints were needed because tactical checkpoints could not be operated on a continuous basis.
  • Gilbert admitted that internal checkpoints give Border Patrol agents a second and third bite of the apple. Gilbert was referring to the number of opportunities the Border Patrol has had (but failed) to interdict illegal traffic. Perhaps we should give agents a fourth and fifth bite of the apple as well by opening our homes to random searches and seizures.
  • After Chief Gilbert finished his presentation, Border Patrol Supervisor John Fitzpatrick and Al White took the stage with Gilbert to answer questions from the audience.
  • Rich Bowman was the first audience member called to the podium. While he expressed his view that interim checkpoints were probably necessary until the border was properly secured, he made it clear he didn’t support a permanent checkpoint. He also stated drug interdictions were obviously of little consequence given that street-level prices for all drugs remain relatively constant and aren’t affected by Border Patrol seizure rates.
  • Stana responded to several of Bowman’s comments by pointing out he’s been doing studies for the GAO for years regarding border security, ports of entry, etc. In other words, Stana is not a neutral arbiter regarding this issue but has a vested interest in the outcome.
  • At one point, Stana referenced internal checkpoint information not included in the GAO report claiming it was misrepresented or carefully tuned to justify a particular outcome while ignoring the fact this is exactly what Stana did in the GAO report.

In summary, Chief Gilbert attempted to artificially bolster the argument in favor of internal checkpoints by misrepresenting facts surrounding an increase in drug interdictions at checkpoints. Gilbert created the impression the increase was due to interdicting more dangerous drugs (in trafficking quantities) emanating from the border. The reality is much different however. The change is due to increased seizures of personal use medicinal or recreational marijuana from U.S citizens traveling inside the country.

The remaining videos will highlight additional questions from the audience and the responses from government bureaucrats.

Links to all parts of this special report appear below: