Why wait to get screened to cross the U.S. border at the actual border or even at an airport in America when you can just stretch that security arm across an ocean? The Department of Homeland Security is setting up shop at some foreign airports now, clearing passengers to cross the border before they even get on a plane.
For example, at Shannon International Airport in Ireland, American Customs and Border Protection have set up shop in a section of the airport to screen travelers for explosive and make sure they’re set to enter the U.S. Then when they land, reports the New York Times, they can just hop off the plane and walk right into the terminal.
Other foreign airports have American officials advising the local authorities or have program in place to expedite travel for low-risk passengers, including in Madrid, Panama City and Tokyo. There are 14 airports in all in the programs, which have been growing over the last few years and mean a lot of discussion and planning, as well as cooperation, with those countries. Sometimes American officers are even allowed to carry weapons, detain passengers and pull them off flights.
These programs seem to be part of the White House’s plan to tighten security as terrorists continue to attempt to blow up planes headed to the U.S. In a way, it’s expanding the U.S. border thousands of miles, stretching it out and keeping it far away from our physical shores to head off a potential catastrophe before it can get close.
“It’s a really big deal — it would be like us saying you can have foreign law enforcement operating in a U.S. facility with all the privileges given to law enforcement, but we are going to do it on your territory and on our rules,” the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, said on a flight back to the United States from the Middle East, where she negotiated with leaders in Israel and Jordan about joint airport security programs. “So you flip it around, and you realize it is a big deal for a country to agree to that. It is also an expensive proposition.”
No plots have been foiled thus far using these programs, and as the NYT points out, it’s likely that any terrorists would realize which airports have the expanded American presence operating there.
U.S. Security Expands Presence at Foreign Airports [New York Times]