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Permanent DHS Checkpoints Planned For Arizona Highways (special report - part 5)

Written by Subject: Arizona's Top News
The video appearing below is part 5 of a 14 part video series highlighting a town hall meeting organized by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The meeting was held on September 2, 2009 in Green Vally, Arizona to discuss/debate a recent GAO report on internal suspicionless homeland security checkpoints.

In this video, GAO spokesperson Richard Stana finishes up his presentation on the findings of a GAO report regarding internal homeland security checkpoints. After Stana finishes, Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Robert Gilbert rises to speak on the report.

Highlights from this video appear below:

* Stana sums up his presentation by making three claims: internal checkpoints serve a purpose, more consideration to checkpoint circumvention must be given and the effects checkpoints have on local communities is unknown.

Of course no one ever claimed checkpoints don't serve a purpose. Unfortunately, the GAO report and Stana's presentation provided no evidence that checkpoints are worth the time and effort - even if civil rights issues are ignored. To the contrary, data collected by the GAO indicates the opposite. Border operations are far more effective than internal checkpoints. Checkpoints on the other hand do nothing more than condition the American people to accept arbitrary interference in their daily lives while adding nothing to security, safety or liberty.

* After Stana finishes his presentation, Tucson sector Border Patrol Chief Gilbert admits the Border Patrol failed in its data collection obligations regarding checkpoint operations.
* Gilbert talks about several Universities participating in the Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence program. Here's an excerpt from the DHS web page:

"The Centers are directly aligned with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's six divisions, creating linkages between the Department and other customers as well as providing enduring cross-cutting technology and basic research needs for the Department and the nation"

* Gilbert claims that checkpoint interdiction numbers speak for themselves. I agree. See my analysis in part 1
* Gilbert claims interdiction numbers are going down because/while Border Patrol efficiency is going up. In doing so, Gilbert ignores the effects of the failing U.S. economy on immigration trends while attempting to capitalize on an overall reduction in immigration rates having little to do with increased enforcement.
* Gilbert claims the Border Patrol has been transparent with regards to its checkpoint operations. Why then have my Freedom of Information Act Requests been constantly rebuffed, the most recent occurrence detailed here
* During his talk, Gilbert explicitly accepted the recommendations of the GAO report. Of course doing so was self-serving given that the report rubber-stamped the alleged 'need' for internal checkpoints while limiting itself to slapping the Border Patrol on the wrist for poor record-keeping practices. In concluding that internal checkpoints serve a purpose, the report failed to directly compare checkpoint interdiction rates to border interdiction rates. Understandable considering border ops are ten times more effective than checkpoints and have the added advantage of not interfering with the travel and privacy rights of individuals inside the country.
* Gilbert acknowledges that the Border Patrol has always intended to erect permanent checkpoints along Arizona highways regardless of the report's conclusions or the level of local dissent. Take for instance this 2007 quote from BP Supervisor John Fitzpatrick who was present at this meeting as well:

"The agency said it will wait to make a decision about the permanent checkpoint until the group's findings are released but countered that, from the Border Patrol's perspective, the work group wasn't formed to debate permanent checkpoints but rather to get input about ways to make it most effective, Fitzpatrick said.

* Gilbert referenced the increased number of drug interdictions at internal checkpoints as evidence of their effectiveness while failing to disclose the fact the vast majority of such interdictions/arrests are of U.S. citizens charged with simple possession of marijuana for recreational or medical use. The Border Patrol has even gone so far as to try and pursue charges of medical marijuana possession against individuals in states with laws explicitly allowing medical marijuana use. Regardless, federal prosecutors have repeatedly refused to pursue most of the cases Gilbert refers to during his talk.

In summary, Chief Gilbert's presentation was filled with the same old lack-luster explanations and excuses we've heard from the Border Patrol for years to justify otherwise unjustifiable law enforcement operations. The Border patrol wants you to voluntarily surrender your rights by allowing the agency to treat you like a criminal in your own backyard while continuing to fail miserably at patrolling a line in the sand known by many as the international border.

Links to parts 1 - 4 of this special series appear below:

* Part 1