Monday, March 05, 2007

Border Patrol's Cameras and Ground Sensors "Close to Useless," Government Audits Conclude

Via Bender's Immigration Daily we learn that The Denver Post is doing a series of articles on the government's enforcement efforts on the U.S.-Mexico border. Tucked away in one of those articles is some information that might be useful to anyone trying a case or litigating a suppression motion that involves evidence from the Border Patrol's cameras and ground sensors. As it turns out, the high-tech isn't highly reliable. Some excerpts:

The cameras like those at Del Rio were erected at dozens of places on both borders by a company called International Microwave Corp., part of a $257 million contract awarded in 1999 and completed over several years.

In two audits, government monitors found many of the cameras weren't installed or were replaced with cheaper, less functional versions than what the contract specified.

The failures spawned a criminal investigation and constituted what one auditor for the General Services Administration called "a major program gone awry." Even when they were in place, the cameras froze in winter and overheated in summer, the GSA audit found.

* * *

The ground sensors were less effective still.

A second audit, this one by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general, found that the sensors were often shorted out by insects or moisture. When they worked, 90 percent of alerts were caused by something other than illegal immigrants, and the deployment of agents to check on hits wasted more time than it saved.

The audit found the agency's 11,000 sensors accounted for less than 1 percent of all apprehensions at the border. Together, government investigators concluded that the $429 million investment in sensors and cameras was close to useless.

Something to keep in mind if you've got a case involving a roving Border Patrol stop based in part on a sensor hit, for example.


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