(Part 9) GAO Presentation On Internal DHS Checkpoints

Part 9 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, two more audience members speak out against the proposed permanent Homeland Security checkpoint being planned for Southern Arizona’s I-19 South of Tucson. Both speakers appear to be associated with the checkpoint work group formed by Representative Giffords several years ago to study the checkpoint’s probable impact on local communities. Highlights from the speakers along with responses from government representatives follow:

  • The first speaker indicates that for the Border Patrol to be successful with its interdiction goals for Southern Arizona, it will have to turn the I-19 corridor into a militarized zone due to the geography of the area.
  • The speaker goes on to state that it’s becoming obvious the federal government has no real intention of securing the actual border if it’s willing to spend millions of dollars on internal checkpoints.
  • The speaker closes by indicating the internal checkpoints are in reality serving as a new border since the government has all but given up along the actual border.
  • The second speaker called GAO representative Stana on the carpet for speaking as if the GAO report data allowed him to conclude permanent checkpoints have no effect on local communities as opposed to the data being insufficient to come to a conclusion.
  • The second speaker indicated Stana did the opposite when speaking as if the data allowed him to conclude internal checkpoints are effective in helping the Border Patrol meet its goals when in reality the data is insufficient to reach this conclusion as well.
  • The second speaker indicated how shocked she was to learn that Homeland Security only attempts to interdict 30% of illegal traffic at the actual border, a sentiment shared by most of the audience. Especially when this fact appears to be driving the alleged need for internal checkpoints.
  • The speaker continued by indicating every checkpoint seizure represents illegal traffic that passed through local communities before being seized at a checkpoint making it clear that checkpoint resources would be better served at the border.
  • The speaker finished up by paraphrasing a quote from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, who recently indicated Ports of Entry should be our last line of defense, not our first.

GAO representative Richard Stana responded to the speakers by clarifying that the report data was not fine enough to come to conclusions regarding the effects of permanent checkpoints on local communities. He went on to claim Border Patrol agents aren’t responsible for what happens at Ports of Entry which are the domain of Customs and Border Protection inspectors. If this is true, why then have I videotaped Customs and Border Protection inspectors working internal suspicionless checkpoints with Border Patrol agents right here in Arizona.

Before turning the microphone over to Chief Gilbert, Stana finished up by stating the government is not giving up on the border and there’s a real problem if folks have this perception.

Chief Gilbert picked up the response to the speakers by claiming if it wasn’t for checkpoints already in place, thousands of pounds of illegal drugs and thousands of illegal aliens would have made it into the country. Chief Gilbert obviously missed the point that if interdictions were taking place at internal checkpoints, the illegal traffic already made it into the country and moved through local communities before being seized at or around Border Patrol checkpoints.

To really add insult to injury, Chief Gilbert went on to say the American people deserve a ‘defense in depth’ but failed to mention whether or not the American people also deserved to be routinely stopped, seized, interrogated and searched absent suspicion at interior checkpoints.

After Chief Gilbert finished speaking, the mic was passed to Special Operations Field Supervisor John Fitzpatrick who reiterated, albeit kinder and gentler, a statement he made in 2007 in the Arizona Daily Star. Namely, that the checkpoint work group wasn’t formed to debate the existence of permanent checkpoints but rather to find ways to make them more effective. See my July 2007 blog post on this particular topic.

This sums up part 9. Links to all parts of this special report appear below: