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!)

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