Dumb Sensors, Deadly Consequences

The circumstances of U.S. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez's death this week remain murkier than the Rio Grande River.
The circumstances of U.S. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez's death this week remain murkier than the Rio Grande River.

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- The circumstances of U.S. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez's death this week remain murkier than the Rio Grande River.

Agent Martinez succumbed to critical head injuries early Sunday morning. An unnamed partner, who came to Martinez's aid after he radioed for help from a remote area of the Big Bend sector in Texas, also suffered serious wounds. Whether by deliberate ambush or accident, one of our border enforcers is dead and the other hospitalized.

This much is clear: Dumb sensors + depleted forces = deadly border disorder.

Agent Martinez had ventured out alone to check on a ground sensor to determine who or what had set it off. He confirmed to his colleagues that human activity had activated the alarm before he died.

Here's the scandal: Our federal government has been squandering billions of dollars on inferior border technology for years. It's a monumental waste of taxpayer funds and a dangerous redistribution of wealth to crony contractors, whose ineffective pet projects are putting our men and women on the front lines at risk.

Nearly 14,000 ground sensors have been littered along the southern border over the past several decades — some dating back to the Vietnam War era. Untold numbers have simply been buried and lost by federal workers who failed to record where they put them. Twelve years ago, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general's report found that agents couldn't determine the cause of 62 percent of the sensor alerts because they were “unable to respond to the dispatch, or it took the agent too long to get to the sensor location.”

Compounding staff shortages are outdated sensors unable to distinguish between humans, vehicles and animals. They can't tell cows from criminals or wild boars from dirty bombers. Thirty-four percent of alerts were confirmed false alarms in the 2005 review. Only 2 percent resulted in apprehensions of immigrants in this country illegally, the feds admitted.

The Arizona Republic reported that “a possible false alarm from a ground sensor, and faulty radio communications, may have contributed to the death of Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie in a friendly-fire incident” in 2012. “(A)gents didn't detect anyone but each other when they arrived. Ivie, responding separately, apparently mistook the other agents for smugglers and opened fire. One of the agents shot and killed him.”

A $1 billion integrated fixed tower project, fronted by Boeing, was supposed to remedy the flaws of the ground sensor system. A surveillance program along the southwest border in Arizona, the IFT systems “are fixed surveillance assets that provide long-range persistent surveillance” using radars that send pictures back to a central hub to monitor illegal crossings and criminal activity.

But the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general reported this summer that the towers had never been properly tested for suitability and operational effectiveness. Its successors haven't fared much better.

On a trip to the Sierra Vista, Arizona, region earlier this summer for my CRTV.com show, “Michelle Malkin Investigates,” I talked to ranchers who pointed out fancy new towers with fatal blind spots, out of reach of deep washes and heavy forests where illegal immigrants and drug smugglers travel.

“We have $50 million of infrastructure on this ranch now,” fourth-generation Arizona rancher John Ladd told me during a tour of his property, “and none of it has worked. Camera towers, radar, fence, roads, street lights.” All the technology in the world is useless, he has long pointed out to politicians and bureaucrats, without boots on the ground. And Border Patrol agents parked in air-conditioned cubicles hours from the border don't count.

“You got 600 (agents) in Tucson” who “take 6 hours to get to the border. Move them down! You got Nogales … and Naco and Douglas that are within a mile of the border,” Ladd points out. “All the rest of them are more than 50 miles north. Why do we have that? What good is that?”

Longtime illegal immigration activist and systems engineer Glenn Spencer, who I first met in California in the 1990s, has lived and worked on the Arizona border for more than decade. He patented and tested a pilot system of seismic detection and ranging on 1.5 miles of his friend John Ladd's property called Seidarm and paired it with a drone, dubbed Hermes, which automatically launches when border activity is detected within 500 feet of the smart sensors. It can be manufactured and built at a fraction of the cost of the big defense contractors' systems. Unlike much of the government's gold-plated technology, Ladd said: “It worked.”

“If they had SEIDARM/HERMES installed, they could have checked out the ground sensor without putting the agent in jeopardy,” Spencer told me after Agent Martinez's death hit the news this week.

But politicians in both parties have spurned Ladd's pleas and Spencer's proposals. Special interests have raided public coffers to fund border security Kabuki theater and stave off meaningful assessments. Spencer doesn't mince words:

“They don't want to measure it; they don't want to secure the border; they want to make it LOOK like they are.”

Beltway business as usual. Another agent's life sacrificed. President Trump, the clock is ticking.

About Michelle MalkinMichelle Malkin

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com. As well as the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” & “Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild“. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

  • 18 thoughts on “Dumb Sensors, Deadly Consequences

    1. Triple ELECTRIFIED wall with mine fields between the walls and 100 feet on BOTH SIDES of the triple wall!!! AND PUT Concertina barbed wire on top!!!

      1. @Jo Ann, Rules of Engagement are the Commander’s control over the beginning of combat. If left to themselves the troops can get into gunfights that sucks your entire command into it. That is one form of meeting engagement, and you as the Commander may have been committed to some other mission by your Commander. You may not have a local but escalating gunfight on todays schedule.
        So, usually the Theater Commander issues his rules of engagement, which you, as the local Commander, adapt to your Area of Operations (AO), quoting liberally from his verbiage. Then you issue your ROE, and make sure that all the troops understand when they are weapons free, and when they are not. For instance, if you are personally getting shot at you get to shoot back, but if you see the opfors, three hundred meters away, lining people up against a wall and executing them or abusing a herd of goats in celebration of their high holy day, then the troops should know that they need to ask permission to engage.

      2. @Jo Ann, Strictly speaking there are no Rules of Engagement inside the United States because ROE are a tool of military operations not law enforcement. Law enforcement officers (LEOs) can’t employ weapons for the purpose of killing people and breaking everything within range because their commander said to “Commence”.
        Inside the US. LEOs and the civilian population are governed by the Law of Self Defense. Often times people use the term ROE as an analogy.

    2. Deaths along the boarder are are a THING! Lots of illegal immigrants die, whether crossing Mexican territory or US territory. They are preyed upon by coyotes. If we Americans consider ourselves humanitarians then we will put a stop to illegal boarder-crossings that put illegal immigrants at great jeopardy at the hands of coyotes and mother nature.

      Tragically, neither Democrat nor Republican Congress-critters are about these deaths. Democrats are happy if they get cheap votes. Republicans are happy if they get cheap labor.

      I am neither for/against immigration. The number and characteristics of aliens we allow to immigrate is a political matter for American citizens to decide and implement through their Congress-critters. Tragically, our Congress-critters are totally disinterested in what their constituents want in the way of an immigration law. Congress just wants immigration, and the more illegal immigration, the better.

    3. with good ROEs

      and THERE’s the rub. If the gummit sends warm bodies into the field with their hands tied behind their backs and feet roped together, just how effective can they be? That is part of the problem we’ve had in “modern warfare” for a generation or more. Study the backstory about Col. Danny Mc Knight and his mission to extract an individual from a secure positioin in Mogadishu SOmalia. (think “Blackhawk Down”) AFTER preparing and training extensively, just as the team were ready to deploy to a FOB, CONGRESS, of all critters, smacked them down with a pile of restrictions, and demanded they leave close to half the team home. They’d trained as a team, leaving anyone out would be VERY risky. They went in anyway, did their absolute best, and the tragedy was so severe they had to make a movie aobut it. Which was a pretty accurate account, EXCEPT for the insanity of COngress changing the ROE and causing the mission’s’ failure.

      WHen a government agency are given a job to do, let the ones with the expertise USE that skill and knowledge, and GET THE JOB DONE.

      1. @Tionico, Are you sure that it was Congress because Congress is not the National Command Authority, and is not in the chain of command. Congress is not in a position to make demands or place restrictions on the chain of command for specific operations and missions.

        1. WB – you are correct and Tionico was mostly correct. The staff studies submitted to the NCA stated that a full Ranger battalion was needed to properly execute the mission, team rest, internal security and full operational capability factored in. NCA ‘determined’ that would be too ‘intrusive’ so ordered the troop level pared down – a reinforced rifle company ended up being sent instead, with predictable results. I won’t mention the name of the NCA that made that decision but his initials were william jefferson clinton. He probably has more blood on his hands than his spouse.

    4. The thing is that the Govt doesn’t want to deal with the outcry when they have to kill someone. And, people from the other side of the border are going to have to die for border crossings to stop. Wishing and hoping isn’t going to change that.

      1. People are dying right now. Some trying to cross, others trying to keep their ranches safe.
        We can shoot coyotes, can’t we. 2 legs, 4 legs, whatever.
        Besides, wouldn’t YOU think twice about crossing if you could see an armed person every 20′ or closer? I bet that anybody would. It might not even come to shooting. The Mexican troops shoot across the river right now, maybe this would convince them that it wasn’t that great an idea. Cost a lot less than a wall, and the Border patrol could use the help.

    5. Here’s a wild thought, maybe tongue-in-cheek. If there are as many guns and gun owners out there as the antis think, and 3% of them are serious, about the number in your local PTA, then if volunteers were asked for, we could field an armed person every 20′ along the border. I can post the math. They’d prolly be willing to bring their favorite weapons. So it could cost the gov as little as hospital costs, scattered roach coaches, and ammo costs. Think of it as a cross between camping and plinking. The cartels would $hit their pants and the immigration problem would go away in a NY minute. More I think about it, the better it sounds. Hmmm.

      1. It’s a nice thought but what are you going to do when the cartels send someone up there with a Barrett 50 and start killing those volunteers, one by one, from 1500 yards or more away? They’d only have to do it once a month or so before those guys, rightly so, would figure out, “Hey, we’re sitting ducks out here, see ya later!”.

        This isn’t nice and clean. You don’t know whether you’re going to run up against some illegals just trying to cross the border for work or cartel members with an RPG or some Chinese full auto AK’s. That’s a gun fight most don’t want to engage in no matter how tough they are behind a keyboard.

        1. Then the good guys should respond in kind with their Barrett 50’s. Bring it on! Nothing worthwhile is nice and clean. Study the writings of the Founding Fathers and the history of the American Revolution.

    6. Put mine field’s along the southern border and place large signs in a variety of languages telling people that the land is mined and see how quick the illegal problem is solved.
      You wouldn’t have to have very many agents assigned to the area except to replace mines that were exploded and people to pick up the leftover mess after detonations occurred.

    7. The entire concept of a “smart wall” with sensors along the border reminds me of those TV commercials where a bank guard is a “bank monitor” – he won’t DO anything if there’s a robbery, but he’ll MONITOR it. Same thing with the dental monitor commercial – he’ll tell you if you HAVE a cavity, but he won’t FILL it. Sensors will tell you if there IS an intrusion, but won’t do anything about it. Nearly useless without substantial – SUBSTANTIAL! – human backup, with good ROEs.

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