The return of fear on the U.S.-Canada border |

Not since the terrorist attacks of September 2001 have ordinary people been as concerned about the risk of a terrorist attack inside the United States. Since Islamic State militants began seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria and beheading Western hostages, nearly half of Americans now believe their country is less safe today than before the 9/11 attacks, according to a recent NBC poll. That’s almost double the number from just one year ago.

Citing the potential for jihadists with Western passports to enter undetected into the U.S., some Washington politicians sound downright panicked. “This is a turning point in the war on terror,” South Carolina Sen.Lindsay Graham told Fox News. He called on President Barack Obama to deploy thousands of ground troops to Iraq, “before we all get killed back here at home.”

“They intend to kill us. And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re going to pay the price,” said House Speaker John Boehner this Sunday. Obama’s own secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, has called the Islamic State group “an imminent threat to every interest we have.” John Allen, a retired four-star Marine Corps General who formerly led the war effort in Afghanistan, declared it “a clear and present danger.”

Fears were heightened when the Iraqi president, Haider al-Abadi, said on Sept. 25 that there was credible evidence of a plot by Islamic State to attack subways in New York. Police presence was beefed up in stations and Mayor Bill de Blasio rode the trains to reassure the public. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence agencies said they had no indication of such a threat.

Whenever Americans get scared, Canadians brace for economic repercussions. The attacks of 9/11 led to security policies that critics say resulted in a “thickening” of the border that hampers commerce and trade. In the 13 years since, enormous government and corporate efforts have gone into trying to roll back, or make more efficient, the resulting wave of new security procedures in the name of keeping commerce alive. But many of the steps are permanent: from arming Canadian customs officers to a requirement that all travellers carry a passport in order to cross the international line. The border is now once again in the political crosshairs. “There is a great concern that our southern border, and our northern border, is porous and that [terrorists] will be coming across,” said Sen. John McCain this month.

Full story: The return of fear on the U.S.-Canada border –

Border refusal for depressed paraplegic shows Canada-U.S. security co-operation has gone too far| Toronto Star

A Canadian is prevented from entering the U.S after border officials gain access to her confidential medical history.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the Commons is in an uproar over revelations that U.S. spies set up shop here in 2010 — with Canadian government assistance — to snoop on international leaders attending the G20 meeting in Toronto.

What’s common to these two stories is the practice of information sharing between Canada and the U.S.

It has long existed in some form. It accelerated wildly after the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington. It now threatens to veer out of control.

That Canada and the U.S. share some information makes sense. We live next door to each other. At some points in history (the Second World War is one example) we have had common enemies.

It seems reasonable that Canadian border guards have some forewarning when, say, a convicted criminal attempts to cross the frontier at Niagara Falls. And vice versa.

What isn’t reasonable is what happened to Ellen Richardson. As the Star’s Valerie Hauch reported, the Toronto paraplegic was turned back at Pearson airport by U.S. immigration officials Monday, while attempting to fly to New York.

Full story: Border refusal for depressed paraplegic shows Canada-U.S. security co-operation has gone too far: Walkom | Toronto Star.

Personal data on thousands of cross-border travellers shared with U.S. under new program | Edmonton Journal

Personal data on thousands of cross-border travellers shared with U.S. under new program.

OTTAWA — Canada and the U.S. have swapped biographic information on 756,000 cross-border travellers under a sweeping new effort to catch cheating entrants, according to a new border agency report.

The flow of personal data between the countries has so far been limited to information about third-country nationals and permanent residents crossing at four major Canada-U.S. land border points.

Next year, however, the bilateral exchange will expand to cover all travellers, including Canadian and American citizens, at all automated border crossings.

The project is part of the 2011 Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border declaration and action plan. Like many post-9/11 efforts, the new “Entry/Exit Information System” attempts to find the elusive balance between national security and personal privacy.

Full story.

The FBI is allowed to operate in Canada — RT USA

The FBI is allowed to operate in Canada — RT USA.

In the news: The foiling of what is alleged to be an attempted terrorist attack targeting a passenger train traveling from Toronto to New York is raising questions about the authority of United States officials to operate abroad.

Officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced earlier this week that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Department of Homeland Security played an instrumental role in the apprehension of two foreign men suspected of plotting an attack against a Via Rail passenger train going from Toronto, Ontario to New York City.

“We are alleging that these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to initiate a terrorist attack,” Jennifer Strachan, criminal operations officer for RCMP Ontario, said during Monday’s press conference.

The suspects, 30-year-old Montreal, Quebec resident Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, 35 of Toronto, are being held in Canada while authorities examine what a preliminary investigation has led them to consider thus far an al-Qaeda-supported terrorist attack. But as officials north of the border try to get to the bottom of the alleged plot, Canadians are also questioning the role of US authorities in the apprehension of the men.

via The FBI is allowed to operate in Canada — RT USA.

The US-Canada Border’s Constitution-Free Zone | The Nation

In the news: The US-Canada Border’s Constitution-Free Zone | The Nation February 7 2013

Before September 11, 2001, more than half the border crossings between the United States and Canada were left unguarded at night, with only rubber cones separating the two countries. Since then, that 4,000 mile “point of pride,” as Toronto’s Globe and Mail once dubbed it, has increasingly been replaced by a US homeland security lockdown, although it’s possible that, like Egyptian-American Abdallah Matthews, you haven’t noticed.

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