Report: Some High-Tech Border Surveillance Systems not Working

Some equipment never installed, other systems failing; government is investigating the contracts


PHOENIX (AP) - Hundreds of sensors and cameras designed to detect undocumented immigrants along U.S. borders were not working last year, and some were not even installed, according to an audit report.

Federal inspectors visited three Arizona sites last year - Nogales, Naco and Tucson - and found none of the remote surveillance systems were fully operational.

Arizona was dubbed the weakest portion of the Southwest border by top Homeland Security Department officials last month.

The federal government reportedly paid private companies $200 million for the high-tech equipment.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that the contracts with the companies under investigation expired in September.

Mario Villarreal, a Customs spokesman in Washington, said about 80 percent of the agency's cameras are functioning.

Jack Lebo, a spokesman with the General Services Administration's inspector general, said the agency is following up on the issues raised in the December audit, which charged that the government paid for "shoddy work" or "for work that was incomplete or never delivered."

Agents along the Arizona border have reported problems with the surveillance equipment, saying that the cameras often do not cover all of the state's 389-mile border with Mexico.

Some members of Congress, including representatives from Arizona, have sought more advanced technology, including ground radar.

In the GSA report, auditors said International Microwave Corp. was paid $20 million between 1998 and 2003 for work at certain sites.

The report said that little work had been completed by last June when inspectors visited the three Arizona border locations plus Carrizo Springs and Laredo, Texas; Detroit; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Blaine, Wash.

In Naco, auditors said they found equipment in storage and camera poles lying in the desert next to a Border Patrol station while in Nogales, the equipment had been delivered but installation was still in progress last summer.