Canadian foreign minister asks U.S. to resume work streamlining border security

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Canada's foreign minister asked the White House on Wednesday to restart initiatives streamlining border security that had been put on hold after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In a private meeting attended by the Canadian ambassador and top officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Foreign Minister John Manley also told Tom Ridge, director of President Bush's homeland security office, that Canada sympathizes with American fears about anthrax-tainted letters and is bracing for the same.

''There's no reason to believe we would not be a target as well,'' Manley told reporters in the White House driveway.

Manley said he spoke with Ridge about proposals to expedite traffic across the border by jump-starting a frequent-traveler program that was stalled after suicide hijackers attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

At a time of tightened budgets, it only makes sense to shift resources away from checking regular travelers who are well known to border patrols as having legitimate cross-border business, Manley said.

''If we can take the frequent travelers ... out of that mix, then the resources that are left can be dedicated to those who are more likely to cause problems,'' he said.

Manley then headed to a Capitol Hill meeting with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., ''to discuss with her the notion that somehow or other Canada was linked to Sept. 11.''

Clinton asked Ridge last week to appoint a special homeland-security deputy to address the U.S.-Canada border, a request that put Manley on the defensive. He emphasized Wednesday that there is no evidence the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the United States through Canada.

After their meeting, Clinton told reporters she was only concerned about northern border issues getting lost in the crush of other counterterrorism business.

''I have no concerns or grievances whatsoever about the way Canada is responding,'' Clinton said.

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