Video: Video glitches on the border

By Kevin Corke Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/4/2005 10:48:00 PM ET 2005-08-05T02:48:00

Along the dusty Arizona-Mexico border is a sophisticated network of video cameras monitoring thousands of miles of open country.

But there’s evidence the U.S. Border Patrol cameras have been unreliable and have broken repeatedly — and that some were never installed at all.

In the post-9/11 world, the cameras became part of a project called America’s Shield Initiative. 

But federal auditors say that security was compromised by the “shoddy and incomplete” work of the contractor, International Microwave Corporation. The government auditors visited eight sites and found not even one of them was fully operational and at three sites, no work had been done at all.

“This is not just about another waste of taxpayer dollars. This is a threat to our national security,” says Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).

Auditors also found broken and uninstalled cameras in Washington, Michigan, and New York state — all paid for by taxpayers.

“Along the northern border you have cameras that don’t work when it gets warmer than 70-75 degrees.  That’s a real problem,” says TJ Bonner of the National Border Patrol Council.

Auditors also say IMC repeatedly substituted more expensive cameras with cheaper ones, while still billing at the higher rate. 

Since then, IMC has been acquired by another company that had nothing to do with the original problems.  And in a statement, the new company, L-3 Communications, said it has acted to remedy the situation, is installing systems at 246 border sites, and 92 percent are currently operational.

But critics still wonder: “How many more border patrol agents could have been hired with that money?” asks Bonner.

At a time when homeland security is so vital, it’s a fleecing that threatens to leave America’s borders insecure.

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