Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Border Officers Say They Can't Stop Terrorists
By Suzanne Gamboa
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON Only about one-third of Customs and Border Protection agents and inspectors believe they have all the tools, training and support to stop terrorists from entering the country, according to a survey released Monday.
The poll of Border Patrol officers, conducted for the unions representing them, found the vast majority believe stopping terrorists from getting into the country is their top mission.
But only 34 percent said they were fairly or very satisfied with the tools and training provided by the Homeland Security Department. Union officials said at a news conference that the tools needed include better vehicles, training in Spanish for new officers and improved access to databases of potential terrorists.
Agents have been given new technology such as personal radiation monitors and the US-VISIT system, which fingerprints and photographs foreigners when they enter the United States and allows inspectors to determine whether they are carrying valid documents, said Christiana Halsey, agency spokeswoman.
"Those employees out there today are better prepared than ever to meet the challenges of guarding our borders," Halsey said.
The survey, done by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, was based on responses from 250 Border Patrol agents and 250 Customs and Border Protection inspectors who were interviewed between July 30 and Aug. 7. The survey's margin of error is 4.5 percentage points.