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Drug Smuggling Biggest Threat Along Canadian Border, DHS Says

Jimmy Emerson/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Jimmy Emerson/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The biggest threat to the U.S.-Canada border continues to be drug smuggling with criminal gangs employing low-flying airplanes to avoid detection, the Department of Homeland Security said in a report to Congress on Thursday.

“The most common threat to U.S. public safety along the northern border continues to be the bidirectional flow of illicit drugs,” the Northern Border Threat Analysis report said. “To avoid detection by U.S. and Canadian law enforcement,” transnational criminal groups occasionally fly “private aircraft at low altitude to evade radar detection, but there are no reports to suggest that the tactic is employed on a large scale.”

Compared with the southwest border where Customs and Border Protection annually arrests thousands of people trying to cross into the United States, arrests on the northern border have averaged below 800 a year for the last five years, the report said. And “the largest share of those apprehended” are Canadians, DHS found.

The two countries have worked effectively to prevent foreign terror suspects from entering North America, the report said, adding that “terror threats are primarily unidentified homegrown violent extremists in Canada who believe they can enter the United States legally” without arousing suspicion.

The DHS report was mandated under a 2015 law and it requires an analysis of potential threats and security gaps on the northern border. The legislation was authorized by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who routinely questions Homeland Security officials about security along the northern border. She is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees the department.

U.S.-Canada maritime traffic, including heavy recreational boating along the border, creates “a conducive environment” for criminal groups to traffic in drugs, people and other contraband, the report said.

While cocaine and methamphetamine move north into Canada from the United States, smaller quantities of fentanyl, marijuana and ecstasy move south, the report said.