Are You Ready For That "Virtual Fence"?

They seem to have worked some of the software kinks out of Boeing’s “virtual” border fence and Michael Chertoff says it’s ready to install, and may be online this summer. Here’s a sneak preview of our new secure homeland:

Chertoff said the virtual fence already is working.

On Feb. 13, an officer in a Tucson command center — 70 miles from the border — noticed a group of about 100 people gathered at the border. The officer notified agents on the ground and in the air. Border Patrol caught 38 of the 100 people who tried to cross illegally, and the others went back into Mexico, said a Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Good thing they decided to go back. But what if they hadn’t? And while the Border Patrol swarmed on these 100 people, how many other groups took advantage of their distraction to run across elsewhere?

I’m not opposed to this virtual fence technology; in fact it makes a lot of sense–but in the same way an alarm system for your house is a good supplement to strong locks and stout doors. It backs up the first (physical) line of defense and identifies breaches. But on its own, an alarm system or a virtual fence–no matter how sophisticated–doesn’t make me feel much safer. I think it was Ace of Spades who noted that the fence they built around the White House itself is very much the real kind, and that security cameras alone aren’t sufficient to guarantee the President’s security. Even though they’re deemed so for ours.

Now, this 38% arrest rate is (I would think) an improvement over current border patrol capabilities. But what happens when the smugglers and migrants figure out how to evade the towers? As I wrote in my initial look at this technology last June, it seems like a guy in a ghillie suit with a .270 could easily blind our “unblinking eye” any time he wanted to.