Two Texas congressmen want the government to consider using new technology at the border that would allow law enforcement officials to remotely disable the engines of boats and vehicles they are pursuing.
Republican Michael McCaul and Democrat Henry Cuellar said in a statement Tuesday that the so-called electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device – which fits inside a suitcase – generates electric fields that can disable electronics without causing permanent harm to anyone.
“The ability to stop vehicles of smugglers from a distance without making direct contact would give our Border Patrol agents a distinct advantage,” said McCaul. “It would allow them to stop vehicles they may otherwise not be able to catch and in some cases avoid dangerous pursuits."
Added Cuellar: “This is cutting-edge technology to meet the spectrum of 21st century threats facing our borders and ports of entry. Technology like this puts one more tool in the toolbox for our federal law enforcement at the borders. It’s empowering equipment to combat illegal activity.”
The device fits in a case developed by Applied Physical Electronics of Austin, Texas. Similar prototypes from the firm have been used by the Pentagon during the last 12 years.
The lawmakers, who sit on the House Homeland Security Committee, witnessed a demonstration in which the device was used to remotely disable a computer. Cuellar said it would be able to do the same to a car, truck or boat engine.
"It's really hi-tech equipment, it's amazing to think that you can disable a car or speedboat on the spot," Cuellar said.
Both lawmakers have also advocated the use of unmanned aerial vehicles along the Texas-Mexico border.
“[Department of Defense] technology is proven, readily available and will further save taxpayer dollars by eliminating new research and development costs,” said McCaul. “This is a commonsense strategy for homeland security."
Cuellar emphasized that the Department of Homeland Security would have final say over which technology is used at the border, but said the government should consider all available technologies, including those from smaller firms.