Border officials say they are unprepared to protect nation

By Chris Strohm

Although the 9/11 commission cited the need for increased border security, the majority of the nation's customs and border officials say they are ill-equipped to prevent another terrorist attack, according to a survey planned for release on Monday.

"The vast majority of America's front-line border protection personnel do not believe that they have been given the proper tools, training and support to be effective in stopping potential terrorists from entering the country," a nationwide survey of U.S. Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers concludes.

The survey was sponsored by the National Border Patrol Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 10,000 non-supervisory Border Patrol employees.

"What the survey is going to reflect are some very specific concerns that the union and the membership has," said Charles Showalter, president of AFGE's National Homeland Security Council. "These are realistic, honest and heart-felt concerns that our membership believes needs to be addressed."

He declined to discuss specific details until the survey is released. The office of Border Patrol became part of the bureau of Customs and Border Protection when the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003.

The 9/11 commission said terrorist travel played a significant role in the Sept. 11 plot, and holes in U.S. immigration and border security contributed to the attacks.

"The challenge for national security in an age of terrorism is to prevent the very few people who may pose overwhelming risks from entering or remaining in the United States undetected," the commission said in its final report. "While commercial aviation remains a possible target, terrorists may turn their attention to other modes.

Opportunities to do harm are as great, or greater, in maritime or surface transportation."

During rare congressional hearings this month, members of the 9/11 commission said the government should consider border and immigration issues an integral part of national security, and strengthen border security efforts.

"As a nation we have not fully absorbed the lessons of 9/11 with respect to border security," former Indiana Rep.

Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the commission, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. "The need to travel makes terrorists vulnerable. They must leave safe havens, travel clandestinely and use evasive techniques, from alerted travel documents to lies and cover stories."

Hamilton has previously said that terrorists are most vulnerable when they are on the move.