by Suzanne Kelly
Since 9/11, the task of securing the U.S. border has changed significantly. Today, the number one threat that Customs and Border Protection officials worry about is terrorism. That doesn't mean it's the only threat. The continuous problems associated with illegal immigration, human smuggling, drug smuggling and gun running remain the primary focus for border patrol agents.
In an exclusive interview with Security Clearance, Customs and Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher explains how new technologies honed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are being used on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
See also the up close tour of border patrol security operations.
By Paula Newton reporting from Ottawa, Canada
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrives in the Canadian capital Monday, where he is expected to announce new measures to support the fight against narcotics in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
He is attending a two-day meeting in Ottawa with Canadian and Mexican defense leaders. FULL POST
Andrew Feinstein's new book "The Shadow World" uncovers the inner workings of the global arms trade. Written with an insider's tone, the book describes backroom weapons deals, including an arms deal between the British and Saudi governments and the guns-for-diamonds deals in Africa. Feinstein was a member of the African National Congress from 1997 to 2001, resigning when the ANC declined to investigate corruption claims regarding a major South African arms deal. Feinstein is an Open Society fellow and the founder of Corruption Watch in London.
Feinstein e-mailed with CNN.com about how the arms trade has mushroomed since World War II, its role in the Arab Spring uprisings, and what he thinks can be done about all those unchecked weapons in Libya.
CNN.com: What is the global arms trade?
Feinstein: It is the trade in conventional arms, so not (weapons of mass destruction), but everything from small and light weapons to aircraft carriers and jet fighters. It accounts for sales of about $60 billion a year on average, and is responsible for around 40 percent of all corruption in all world trade.
CNN.com: Why is it important to understand the distinction you make in your book between government to government trading and illicit weapons dealing? What is the "grey market?"
Feinstein: Governments and defense contractors argue that the government-to-government trade is "clean," whereas in fact it is riven with corruption, and also supports the illegal or black market trade. The grey market is where governments attempt to influence foreign policy covertly through the use of illegal dealers to undertake arms transactions on their behalf. A well-known example would be the Iran-Contra deal, perhaps the most cynical arms deal of all time.
CNN.com: Your book isn't an academic history, though you do explain how and why the military industrial complex grew after World War II. Your book is mostly packed with thriller-type stories about arms dealers and corrupt government officials, backroom wheeling and dealing. Much of that is based on top secret information you obtained. How did you manage to get that information?
Feinstein: The book is intended as an accessible, narrative account of the trade that is hopefully entertaining to read. But it is also backed by extensive research – there are between 2,500 and 3,000 endnotes in the book for anyone who wants to check where any piece of information was sourced. This information came from a wide variety of sources: interviews with arms dealers who have never been reported on or interviewed before, massive investigation archives that have not been in the public domain, whistle-blowers and publicly available sources.
CNN.com: You joined the African National Congress during Nelson Mandela's administration when you were a student and you resigned in 2001 when the ANC wouldn't investigate a major arms dealer. Was this your first up-close introduction to the world of arms dealing? What was that experience like?
Feinstein: That's correct. I was committed to the ANC from the mid-1980s when it was still a banned organization in South Africa. After working as a facilitator in the negotiations that led to our first democratic elections in 1994, I became a Member of Parliament for the party in those elections. It was an extraordinary experience to serve under Mandela but it was disappointing how quickly his successor adopted the tawdry norms of global politics. The point at which the ANC lost its moral compass was when they decided to spend $10 billion on weapons the country didn't need, and barely use today, with $300 million in bribes being paid to senior politicians, officials and the ANC itself. My financial oversight committee was stopped by President Thabo Mbeki from investigating this corruption, which led to my resignation, and the writing of a book on the deal and its devastating impact on South Africa's young democracy. It was a sad time for me personally and politically, as I saw at first hand how an extraordinary liberation movement was prepared to undermine the democracy it had created to protect its leaders from the consequences of their corrupt behavior. It was also the first of myriad grand corruption scandals in the country and the demise of the early years of hope.
Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.
By AEI's Roger F. Noriega, Special to CNN
Republican presidential candidates have had little constructive to say on the issue of the bloody drug violence in neighboring Mexico. They can change that as they meet to debate on Tuesday night.
President Obama’s Mexico strategy picked up where the Bush-era “Merida Plan” package left off. It amounts to “less of the same,” as U.S. law enforcement and community development support is delivered in dribs and drabs. In 2012, if Mexicans choose a new president who decides to end the anti-drug offensive, we may wish that we had done more to support our Mexican allies when we had the chance.
Outgoing President Felipe Calderon launched a frontal offensive against criminal syndicates five years ago, enlisting the military alongside outgunned civilian police. Although the vast majority of the 35,000 deaths in recent years are the result of criminal turf wars, most innocent Mexicans are beleaguered by insecurity and violence. Many Mexicans wonder why they are paying such a high price to fight the illicit drug trade that services the insatiable demand for drugs in the United States – particularly when U.S. policy makers appear either indifferent or worse to their plight. FULL POST