Newly revealed 2002 report questions border security from biological weapons

A recently revealed report, marked "sensitive," has surfaced as part of a load of documents uncovered by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the Salt Lake Tribune has reported.

The classified analysis, written shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, says that terrorists could easily enter the United States with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons through an arid and sparsely populated part of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

"This area has become very active with smuggling and encrypted radio traffic," the report, completed by the Interior Department in late 2002 and titled "Threat Assessment for Public Lands," said. "This would be an ideal area to smuggle a weapon of mass destruction."

In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security reported that heightened security at entry points into the United States could potentially funnel smugglers to these rural, unpopulated areas.

Members of Congress, including Bishop, have called the region of the miles-long region of the border in question a prime national security lapse in dire need of fixing.

The report says that biological, chemical or nuclear weapons could use well established smuggling routes over lands managed by the Department of the Interior.

A combination of fencing, vehicle barriers and pedestrian impediments have been installed on the stretch of the border in question since 2002 and Homeland Security expects a virtual fence of surveillance towers with radar and monitoring equipment to be completed there next year.

Additionally, since October 2006, the border patrol has increased personnel, physical structures and technology along the U.S.'s southwest border. It has also doubled its number of border patrol agents since 2001 to 17,000.

The unsecured border is next to federal wild lands, which Bishop, the ranking Republican on a House subcommittee oversee federal lands, says impedes the ability of the United States to secure its borders. Surveillance towers are forbidden in wilderness areas.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Interior have stated that, since the report was published, the threat from the border has become negligible, which Rep. Bishop has said he does not believe and will not until he sees demonstrable proof.