Suckers For Punishment: DHS Hires Boeing (Again) to Build Surveillance Towers On U.S.-Canada Border

So, remember the "virtual fence" being built along the U.S. Mexico border? The one George W. Bush bragged would be "the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history"? If memory serves, it quickly became an embarrassing failure for the Department of Homeland Security -- a 28-mile blunder and a financial boon for Boeing, which was paid tens of millions of dollars for to complete the project.

Of course, the "virtual fence" is far from completion -- Gregory Giddens, then-head of the DHS Secure Border Initiative, estimated last year that it would be finished some time in 2011. But now there's a new director in town, retired U.S. Air Force colonel Mark Borkowski, who told the Arizona Daily Star earlier this year that he is "not committed one way or another" on continuing Boeing's contract to finish it. "We are going to be doing some analysis this year of what are the right priorities for this program," he said. "Those analyses will advise what we do in terms of future contracts and whether or not we use Boeing."

That was February. Now, it appears there's a whole new "virtual fence" in the works. Never mind that messy border web to the south; "The U.S. Border Patrol is erecting 16 more video surveillance towers in Michigan and New York to help secure parts of the U.S.-Canadian border," the Associated Press reports, "awarding the contract to a company criticized for faulty technology with its so-called 'virtual fence' along the U.S.-Mexico boundary."

That company, of course, is Boeing, which was awarded the $20 million project to erect the towers.

Despite his earlier remarks, Borkowski told the AP that he is confident Homeland Security will not run into the same problems it had with Boeing in the past. "Boeing spokeswoman Jenna K. McMullin said the company has 'learned quite a bit from our previous SBInet experience and demonstrated how to implement lessons learned.'"

Well, that's reassuring.

So what are the American people getting for $20 million?

Surveillance cameras in their backyards (literally).

"Borkowski acknowledged that as cameras pan an area it might point at a private residence," according to the AP, but "said that is not the cameras' intended targets." Besides,"only law enforcement officials will be operating the cameras." (Also reassuring!)

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.