24/7 surveillance of both the Mexican and Canadian borders
In a telephone interview with Syracuse.com over the phone before his visit to Syracuse on Saturday, Donald Trump called for 24/7 surveillance of both the Mexican and Canadian borders by surveillance drones.
“They would work in conjunction with the Border Patrol, who are fantastic people who want to do their job,” He said, “I want surveillance for our borders, and the drone has great capabilities for surveillance.”
There are questions however over both the cost and effectiveness of drone surveillance and a risk of accusations of spying. At over $12,000 per flight hour to operate the drones, it is not cheap and it would take a lot of drones to patrol both borders.
According to Stripes.com,
A November 2010 report, written by a key DPS contractor that helped design the agency’s border security program, states that Texas authorities engaged in aerial surveillance of drug cartel targets south of the border, activities that the contractor described as “spying on Mexico.”
“During this operation, the RC-26 high altitude surveillance aircraft is being used to monitor suspected Zeta points of interest and pass this information on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” the document reads. “Using this information, ICE can work in conjunction with Mexican Military forces to target los Zetas both north and south of the border to disrupt cartel trafficking operations.”
The section is preceded by an italicized warning: “Need to be careful here as we are admitting to spying on Mexico.”
A report in the Washington Post suggested that the use of surveillance drones to patrol borders is ineffective,
U.S. drones deployed along the borders are grounded most of the time, cost far more than initially estimated and help to apprehend only a tiny number of people trying to cross illegally, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.
In a report that could undermine political support for using more drones to secure the nation’s borders, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found “little or no evidence” that the fleet had met expectations or was effective in conducting surveillance.
But those results were contested. In a written response, Eugene Schied, an assistant commissioner with Customs and Border Protection said,
“has achieved or exceeded all relevant performance expectations.”
Schied accused the inspector general of cherry-picking statistics and ignoring information that makes the drones appear more effective. For instance, Schied said, drones “directly contributed” to the seizure of almost 50,000 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $122 million, along the Southwest border in 2013.
The report concluded,
Customs and Border Protection dismissed suggestions that a major expansion of its drone fleet would occur anytime soon. Although plans to fly as many as two dozen drones were authorized years ago, Schied said the department did not have the money to follow through and that “there is no intent at this time” to operate more than 10 of the aircraft.
Trump was surprised that that pilots based in Syracuse remotely operate the Reaper drones for surveillance and combat missions over Afghanistan.
“It’s amazing that you can do that from Syracuse,” Trump said, adding, “I would absolutely keep and expand that capability in Syracuse.”
So what do you think? Would 24/7 drone patrols protect our borders? Would they be a better investment than an increase in border guards and patrol towers? Please let us know you thoughts in the chat room:
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