Canada border checks stiffen

U.S. authorities tightened their checks of traffic from Canada on Monday as debate over the long and hard-to-police border intensified following the weekend arrests of 17 Muslim Canadians in a suspected Ontario terror plot.

But the border along Washington state likely won’t see additional crossing delays, an official said.

Calls for tougher security measures were countered by pleas from business and civic leaders from the U.S. and Canada to keep border crossings as quick and simple as possible.

“Terrorism is clearly part of the North American environment whether we like it or not, but closing down the border is not going to eliminate it,” said Arlene White, a Canadian who is executive director of the Binational Tourism Alliance in the Niagara Falls-Buffalo area.

In Washington, U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said patrol stations along the 4,000-mile border – especially those adjoining Ontario – are on high alert because of the arrests, although investigators say the suspects’ alleged plot apparently involved only targets in Canada.

U.S. agents already deployed to the Canadian border will work overtime and some will be moved closer to the areas where the arrests occurred, Aguilar said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Kristi Clemens said some traffic headed into the United States would under go tougher procedures at the 89 ports of entry along the border.

Agents at Washington state’s border ports with Canada “have been in a heightened state of security for a long time” so travelers probably won’t see much difference, with no specific changes planned because of the weekend arrests, said Mike Milne, a spokesman in Seattle for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Travelers may experience slightly longer wait times, but that will be more of a function of the summer travel peak than anything different in enforcement, Milne said.

Though often depicted as porous, controls along the U.S.-Canada border have entrapped some terrorist suspects, such as Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested as he drove off a ferry in Port Angeles in 1999 and was later convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

Canadian police said Monday more arrests are likely, possibly this week, in an alleged plot to bomb buildings in Canada, while intelligence officers sought ties between the 17 suspects and Islamic terror cells in the United States and five other nations.

A court said authorities had charged all 12 adults arrested over the weekend with participating in a terrorist group. Other charges included importing weapons and planning a bombing. The charges against five minors were not made public.

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