North Dakota Senator Wants Unmanned Airplane Surveillance of U.S.-Canada Border

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- A North Dakota senator wants to beef up patrols of the U.S.-Canada border to include unmanned surveillance planes and the latest high-tech sensors.

"One of our nation's greatest vulnerabilities is the lack of security along our borders,'' U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad said Thursday. "We must do everything we can to ensure terrorists never strike again on U.S. soil. And the best way to protect our nation is to ensure that terrorists never enter it.''

Under the Democrat's plan, the North Dakota-Manitoba border would become the testing ground for the "smart border'' project. Technology would be used to monitor remote stretches between ports of entry.

The unmanned planes would be piloted from the ground. Similar technology was used by the U.S. during the war with Iraq.

Conrad's initiative has already been given the green light by the Senate, but must still be approved by the House. That could happen as early as next month.

Lonny Schweitzer, assistant chief with the U.S. Border Patrol, said he would welcome the new technology. The border is currently patrolled by planes and agents using infrared detectors, among other things.

Mike Molotkin, spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said officials are watching Conrad's plan with interest.

"We're always mindful of what our partners on the U.S. side are doing,'' Molotkin said. ``We have a good relationship with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.''

Conrad said a national report following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks recognized the U.S.-Canada border operates with only a fraction of the manpower and resources devoted to the southern border with Mexico.

Maine shares a 611-mile border with Canada.