Past Features

January 21, 2017

Weird Wired Report
Border technology misrepresented

Glenn Spencer -- January 21
Sell-out of the techno geeks?
    Last Thursday Wired Magazine ran a story about the border: "A Wall Alone Can't Secure the Border, No Matter Who Pays for It."
    It purports to explain how technology can help secure the border.
    A wall helps to an extent. But it’s limited at best, impractical at worst, and impressively expensive. While focusing so narrowly on a physical barrier may have been politically expedient, it belies the technological innovations and staffing solutions that have actually worked for US Customs and Border Protection. [...]
A Better Way to Border
    US Customs and Border Protection was created in 2003 to consolidate border and entry port security “through collaboration, innovation, and integration.” This has included increased sensor deployment along the border (like radar, cameras, and ground sensors) in combination with other surveillance tools like helicopters, manned planes, drones, and even tethered aerostats used for radar.
    Wired repeats claims that CBP has shown "innovation" by deploying ground sensors.
    A simple Google search using the term "U.S. Border Patrol ground sensors" produces a list of news items.
    Number 6 on the list is this DHS Office of Inspector General report: A Review of Remote Surveillance Technology Along U.S. Land Borders .
    Had Wired simply taken the time to do such a simple search, it could have found and read this report. Had it done so, it would have learned that existing ground sensors have a false alarm rate in excess of 90%.
    Worse than that, had it even checked its own records, it would have found a 2012 Wired report that attempts by CBP to replace its failed sensors had to be scuttled due to technical problems.
    And drones? The same Inspector DHS OIG report that nailed the ground sensors said that the expensive Predator B drone wasn't worth the cost.
    As far as the tethered aerostats are concerned, I have personally flown many tests that show that they cannot detect ultralight --- or even very light - low- flying aircraft.
    Fear not for the future of the aerostat, however --- the company that makes them recently hired a former CBP official --- even though leaders of the Border Patrol union once passed a unanimous resolution of no confidence against him.
    The Wired report is no doubt a puff-piece placed there by nervous folks fearing the death of the money tree known as the Department of Homeland Security.
    Are we now seeing the sell-out of the techno geeks?