Past Features

November 1, 2015

US Border Patrol's New Virtual Fence

One of six new Integrated Fixed Towers installed near Nogales, Arizona.
See Larger Photo.
Glenn Spencer -- American Border Patrol -- November 1, 2015
A Time for Accountability
    In 2006 --- nine years ago --- the Department of Homeland Security spent $1 billion on a new virtual fence. It was called SBInet.
    That same year, I predicted that it would fail.
    I even spent $1,200 to attend a Boeing bidder's conference where I questioned why the virtual fence was being built where the Secure Fence Act of 2006 called for a double-layered steel fence.
    Boeing said they were “activators” --- they activated what the government wanted.
    Two years after its start, SBInet was cancelled...
    Now comes the Integrated Fixed Tower program --- the follow-on to SBInet. As I reported early last year, the IFT had problems similar to the failed SBInet.
    Still, DHS/CBP awarded a $145 million contract to build six of the towers near Nogales.
    This last September American Border Patrol took a look at two of the three cameras west of Nogales and raised questions about what they could see.
    We then returned to take a closer look at one of the three cameras that seemed to have more promise (NGL 047).
    ABP spent a number of days examining NGL 047 --- from the air and on the ground. The result is this YouTube video.
    Our investigation raises questions about the ability of the thee Integrated Fixed Towers placed west of Nogales, Arizona to help interdict illegal border crossers. If we are right, DHS spent about $70 million on cameras that cannot see the border and can see a total of less that one mile of one highway (Arizona SR 289) that is miles from the border . Even then, that highway is surrounded by trees and brush that offer cover for smugglers.
    It is incumbent upon the Government Accountability Office to demand that DHS/CBP test these cameras to determine their effectiveness in detecting smuggling and human trafficking.
    It is time for accountability.