Passport Woes

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Written by Scott Gilbert

The US Department of Homeland Security recently implemented a requirement that all Canadian citizens flying into the US must carry a valid passport. The stated objective is to of course thwart more “terrorist attacks” within the United States. The question comes down to whether this move is likely to deter attacks, or whether it is yet another attempt by the Bush administration to increase the budgets of defence related agencies while appearing to do something about the supposed threat.

A look at the facts would suggest the latter. First of all, security at airports has already been significantly enhanced, relative to other forms of entry, since 9/11. And while the US likes to argue that Canada is a safe haven for terrorists and a likely entry route for them onto US soil, there are no passport requirements for entry by vehicle, which would likely have been the entry method of choice regardless due to the increased security checks at airports. Even without a passport requirement, there are still “no fly” lists and an increased level of suspicion around air travel.

Even if you believe that a group of around 20 of Osama’s operatives where so skilled as to highjack four commercial airlines simultaneously on 9/11 and fly them with military precision, then consider what the likelihood would be of them trying to pull off another attack using much of the same methods. Pulling the same stunt twice, or a very similar one, is not something a criminal mastermind of the type Osama is portrayed as would likely do.

But now lets consider the rhetoric we are lambasted with every day. We are told that there are terrorist “sleeper cells” within the US that are fully capable of carrying out devastating attacks, and that they are just waiting for the right moment. Compare this to the case of the Olympic bomb scare that happened over a decade ago in Atlanta in 1996. We were told at the time that there was a pipe bomb in the stadium that cost only $12 to make, and was produced entirely from materials that could be purchased at the local hardware store and supermarket.

If terrorist sleeper cells actually exist in the US, and they are bent on killing as many Americans as possible, they certainly are taking their time. There has so far been absolutely no “terrorist attacks” within the US since 9/11, and if one were being planed, it would be much easier to pull off with their operatives within the country than trying to fly others in.

Far more dangerous than sleeper cells trying to explode pipe bombs, or highjackers trying to take down commercial airliners is the real threat of a rogue group exploding a nuclear device within the US that is brought in through a sea port. Dr. Helen Caldicott, a recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Guelph, writes in her recent book New Nuclear Danger that the Soviet Union “lost” almost 100 suitcase sized nuclear warheads before it crumbled. Any one of these could easily be smuggled into the US in a shipping container. Even if it was detected, it could be set to explode at the port. Nobody knows who has them, but the threat exists and the War on Terror has not made the US many friends.

All in all, we have to ask ourselves, is this move likely to actually deter the type of attack that the program is designed to prevent. I argue no for the above reasons, Remember, the official story of what happened on 9/11 includes the assumption that all 19 of the accused terrorists had passports that looked good enough to permit them on the planes they supposedly highjacked. Faking a passport is something that would be a piece of cake for an organization as advanced as Osama’s network is made out to be.

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  1. Posted by: John L on Feb 7, 2007 @ 3:28pm

    All in all, the U.S. is a sovereign state and can put any requirements it wants on those who ask to enter the country. Presumably those who want to enter the U.S. are capable of acquiring
    a passport; certainly the Canadian government has been pointing out the need for one for many months.

  2. Posted by: Chris Eldridge on Feb 10, 2007 @ 1:31pm

    It's their right to do as they wish.

    However, Scott, with your detailed and expert grasp of international security I suggest you go to Washington and tell them how it should be done as opposed to writing meaningless articles on a Guelph student website. Really, I mean, your just such an expert why waste your time writing articles in a town where no one has a clue, and even less care? Go make a difference!

  3. Posted by: R on Feb 28, 2007 @ 5:11pm

    So it is a peice of cake for terroist to fake a passport, but probably even easier to fake a birth certificate... my birth certificate is AN UNLAMINATED PIECE OF PAPER.

    Plus, this was supposed to come into effect for ALL travel (land, sea, and air-based) last January to the best of my recolection. As far as I know, you do not yet need a passport to travel into the US by land, so, if getting a passport is that much trouble, then just drive. However, with trips probably being planned months in advance, is 60 days that long to wait for a passport?

  4. Posted by: Tim on Mar 17, 2007 @ 8:55am

    If you're being constantly lambasted with news of sleeper-cells, then stop listening to Ann Coulter - I haven't heard any such news since 2001. I am, however, deeply offended by the insulting implication that the US military was responsible for 9/11 in your third paragraph. I am making a concerted effort to hold back expletives.
    Also, who are you, you who knows what Osama is or is not likely to do? Would he be too bored to do the “plane thing” twice? You seriously presuppose his methods. The security justification behind passports may not hold weight, but you need them for most other countries already. I fail to see how this balloons Bush’s defense-related budgets in any way. Or will he pay border guards more for reading passports than he will birth certificates?
    Finally, suitcase nukes don't have anything to do with the passport problem.

  5. Posted by: Steve on Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Gilbert. You fail to see the true danger. The majority of the science and engineering students have the technical capability to develop a nuclear device, given purified ore. The majority of the science/engineering student could even purify raw uranium ore into a something pure enough to produce a nuclear reaction. The only check on such an action is that the solvent used to in the refining process is a controlled substance. However none of this stops someone with a high school education from from making a dirty bomb that scatters radioactive material for miles making massive sections of cities unhabitable for years. The states is only trying to look like they are offering protection from terrorists when the truth is that there is no safty outside of a bomb shelter.

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