Border security with Canada under review

U.S. security agreements with Canada came under scrutiny Monday as House Homeland Security Committee members met in Buffalo.

The counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee field hearing follows the release last year of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found that only 32 miles of the 4,000-mile northern border with Canada were considered to have “an acceptable level of security.” Chairman Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) and local Congress members Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, were expected to attend along with local law enforcement officials.

The Homeland Security Department's top Canada official praised the progress on “Beyond the Border,” a joint declaration announced in February between President Obama and Canada's Stephen Harper that the prime minister has called “the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.” A joint Action Plan followed last December, outlining cooperation in addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs; integrated cross-border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cybersecurity.

Canada, however, is reportedly worried about sharing information about travelers with U.S. authorities. The two countries spent months working on joint privacy principles, which were finally released last month.

“These joint principles reflect the shared commitment of the United States and Canada to protecting privacy consistent with each country’s domestic laws,” Deborah Meyers, director of Canadian affairs at the department's Office of International Affairs, said in her testimony. “Responsible sharing not only demonstrates respect for citizens’ privacy and civil liberties but also facilitates and promotes the flow of accurate, relevant and necessary information to address threats to national security and conduct law enforcement.”