Past Features

December 18, 2017

Questions about border technology -
is anyone asking them?

ABP drone 'Hermes" examines Integrated Fixed Tower located in
the U.S. Border Patrol Douglas Area of Responsibility
Glenn Spencer -- December 18, 2017  
Border tech reporting - Can we trust it?
    Back in September, National Public Radio ran a report -- Trump Uses Border Security Funding As Condition Of Potential DACA Deal.suggesting that President Trump might hold up a deal to protect DACA recipients to get more funding for border protection.
    Asked what such funding might buy, the expert interviewed by NPR, Brandon Behlendorf, who teaches at the University of Albany in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity, said:
“Primarily the most deployable is surveillance cameras, things that are known as Integrated Fixed Towers.”
    This report followed on the heals of a July 25 story by Arizona Public Media --- Border Officials Praise Technology, Ask for More that included this:
“Integrated, fixed towers deployed along the border in Arizona provide a long-range, persistent surveillance. These tower systems automatically detect and track items of interest and provide centralized operators with video and geospatial location of items of interest,” said Scott Luck, acting deputy chief of the Border Patrol.
    More recently, on December 7 the Huffington Post ran a lengthy piece, The Era of Walls, by Todd Miller, who has “written on border and immigration issues for the New York Times....”
    Seeing an Integrated Fixed Tower near Douglas, Arizona, Miller wrote “..
.one of 52 new high-tech surveillance platforms built in the last two years in southern Arizona by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Since that tower's cameras are capable of spotting objects and people seven miles away, I had little doubt that agents in a nearby command and control center were watching me as well.”
    I have flown aerial reconnaissance (manned and drone) over all Integrated Fixed Towers known to exist and counted 23 that have been installed --- seven near Nogales (which I first reported was six --- not seven), eight near Douglas, and eight in and near the Coronado National Forest.
    DHS had planned to build 52, but that plan has been scrapped --- and there is no funding for more IFTs in the existing Trump DHS budget.
    On November 26, the Pittsburgh Tribune ran a story --- Michelle Malkin: Dumb border sensors' deadly consequences --- that included this:
A $1 billion integrated fixed tower project, fronted by Boeing, was supposed to remedy the ground sensor system's flaws along the border in Arizona, providing “long-range persistent surveillance” using radar data sent to a central hub. But the DHS inspector general reported this summer that the towers had never been properly tested.
    As I reported last October --- President Trump should report on the Integrated Fixed Towers --- because there are plenty of reasons to question the efficacy of the Integrated Fixed Towers.
Instead of looking out for the public interest, in this case the public media seemed to be acting like shills for a private contractor.
    It seems we can trust Michelle Malkin to ask the right questions about border technology --- but who else?