Sleeper stresses importance of intelligence sharing

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(Host) Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper says the best way to stop terrorists from crossing the border between Canada and Vermont is to beef up intelligence sharing efforts.

Sleeper says tightening border controls will do very little to provide greater security in the future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The arrest last weekend of 17 people in Toronto, who are alleged to have been plotting to blow up the Canadian Parliament and kill political leaders in that country, has heightened security concerns about the Vermont Canadian border.

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper says the Canadian arrests didn’t come as a surprise to him:

(Sleeper) “Actually not surprised at all I can assure you that there are other groups of individuals currently in Canada and there are groups of individuals in the United States that are currently contemplating the same type of action and we’re going to be dealing with this for the foreseeable future.”

(Kinzel) Some members of Congress want to impose much tougher restrictions to enter the United States from Canada – Sleeper says this approach isn’t the answer and he notes that the individuals arrested in Toronto were legal Canadian citizens:

(Sleeper) “There was nothing that would have prevented them from securing a border pass and coming across the border legally. So just the idea of securing the border and creating new pass cards that will prevent a known terrorist from Pakistan or Afghanistan from infiltrating across the border but it’s not going to guard against what we now call the so called homegrown terrorist.”

(Kinzel) The best way to reduce cross border terrorism, according to Sleeper, is for state, federal and Canadian law enforcement agencies to constantly brief each other about potential threats:

(Sleeper) “It’s all about sharing information, identifying people that could be a threat, and making sure we have that information. That’s the only way in the future that we’re going to be able to protect this country.”

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas has strongly opposed efforts by the Bush Administration to require a passport to travel to Canada beginning in 2008. Douglas says the arrests in Toronto haven’t changed his position on this issue:

(Douglas) “We want to take the threat from Toronto very seriously but we don’t want to overreact. And I still believe that we have to understand that the pee wee hockey teams that go across the border from Derby Line to Rock Island are not threats to national security. And we don’t need to put in place a process for requiring them to show more identification than is necessary.”

(Kinzel) The U.S. Senate has included a provision in their immigration reform bill that would delay the implementation of the passport plan until at least 2009. But it’s not clear if the Senate and House will be able to work out their differences on other key elements of that legislation.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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