Past Features

November 25, 2017

Making sense of the sensor mess

Washington Post: A Border Patrol agent is dead in Texas, but the circumstances remain murky
Kankakee (IL) Daily Journal -- November 25, 2017  
Dumb sensors, deadly consequences
    The circumstances of U.S. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez's death this week remain murkier than the Rio Grande River.
    Agent Martinez succumbed to critical head injuries early Sunday morning. An unnamed partner, who came to Martinez's aid after he radioed for help from a remote area of the Big Bend sector in Texas, also suffered serious wounds. Whether by deliberate ambush or accident, one of our border enforcers is dead and the other hospitalized.
    This much is clear: Dumb sensors plus depleted forces equals deadly border disorder.
    Agent Martinez had ventured out alone to check on a ground sensor to determine who or what had set it off. He confirmed to his colleagues human activity had activated the alarm before he died.
    Here's the scandal: Our federal government has been squandering billions of dollars on inferior border technology for years. It's a monumental waste of taxpayer funds and a dangerous redistribution of wealth to crony contractors, whose ineffective pet projects are putting our men and women on the front lines at risk.
    About 14,000 ground sensors have been littered along the southern border during the past several decades --- some dating back to the Vietnam War era. Untold numbers simply have been buried and lost by federal workers who failed to record where they put them. Twelve years ago, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general's report found agents couldn't determine the cause of 62 percent of the sensor alerts because they were "unable to respond to the dispatch, or it took the agent too long to get to the sensor location.”
    On a trip to the Sierra Vista, Ariz., region earlier this summer for my show, "Michelle Malkin Investigates," I talked to ranchers who pointed out fancy new towers with fatal blind spots, out of reach of deep washes and heavy forests where illegal immigrants and drug smugglers travel.
    "We have $50 million of infrastructure on this ranch now," fourth-generation Arizona rancher John Ladd told me during a tour of his property, "and none of it has worked. Camera towers, radar, fence, roads, street lights." All the technology in the world is useless, he has long pointed out to politicians and bureaucrats, without boots on the ground. And Border Patrol agents parked in air-conditioned cubicles hours from the border don't count.
    "You got 600 (agents) in Tucson" who "take six hours to get to the border. Move them down! You got Nogales ... and Naco and Douglas that are within a mile of the border," Ladd points out. "All the rest of them are more than 50 miles north. Why do we have that? What good is that?"
    Longtime illegal immigration activist and systems engineer Glenn Spencer, who I first met in California in the 1990s, has lived and worked on the Arizona border for more than a decade. He patented and tested a pilot system of seismic detection and ranging on 1.5 miles of his friend John Ladd's property called Seidarm and paired it with a drone, dubbed Hermes, which automatically launches when border activity is detected within 500 feet of the smart sensors. It can be manufactured and built at a fraction of the cost of the big defense contractors' systems. Unlike much of the government's gold-plated technology, Ladd said: "It worked."
    "If they had SEIDARM/HERMES installed, they could have checked out the ground sensor without putting the agent in jeopardy," Spencer told me after Agent Martinez's death hit the news this week.
    But politicians in both parties have spurned Ladd's pleas and Spencer's proposals. Special interests have raided public coffers to fund border security Kabuki theater and stave off meaningful assessments. Spencer doesn't mince words:
    "They don't want to measure it; they don't want to secure the border; they want to make it LOOK like they are.”

Glenn Spencer -- November 25, 2017   
Why do we have dumb sensors?    
    Michelle Malkin said I didn't mince words when I said : “they don't want to measure it...” By that I meant that the government did not want to use a measure of border security --- a metric --- that could be quantified. I have been pounding this subject for the past seven years.
    A March, 2013, New York Times story by Julia Preston included this:
"Obama administration officials said on Thursday that they had resisted producing a single measure to assess the border because the president did not want any hurdles placed on the pathway to eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally."  
    For eight years the Department of Homeland Security got its marching orders from a president who didn't want them to "use a single measure to assess the border."
    As defined by law, the job of DHS is to "prevent all unlawful entries".
    A single measure --- or metric --- would be the number of unlawful entries not prevented.
     I invented SEIDARM to quantify that metric.
    Since President Obama didn't “want any hurdles placed on the pathway to eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally,” my technology was looked on as such a hurdle and, for this --- and other more sinister reasons --- was rejected by Obama's DHS.
    We have dumb sensors because the Department of Homeland Security under Barack Obama wanted it that way.