Vermont Security Checkpoints Yield Drugs, Not Terrorists


Security stops of cars in rural New England near the Canadian border, which became more frequent after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, have yet to snare a terrorist but they have contributed to a huge, unexpected increase in marijuana seizures, reports the Boston Globe. The seizures, which soared from 419 pounds in 2000 to more than 3,000 pounds last year, have pleased the U.S. Department of Homeland Security but have angered Vermonters and civil libertarians, who say the more aggressive Border Patrol checkpoints should not be used for everyday law enforcement. Random checkpoints stop all passing cars as far as 100 miles from the border. “I can’t drive from one part of Vermont to another part without going through what is basically a border crossing,” said Keith Aten, a board member of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has been a proponent of more spending on the Border Patrol, has said the highway checkpoint that frequently appears just south of White River Junction does “far more to harass law-abiding Vermonters than to protect their security.” Homeland Security officials said the checkpoints, which are set up at random or in response to a specific threat, are a crucial second line of defense to tighter controls at the border itself. They point to the drug seizures as evidence that the checkpoints are stopping illegal activity.


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