How the U.S. Is Reengineering Homeland Security on the Borders

Patrolled by Predator drones, radar blimps, dogs, and scanners, the U.S./Mexico border is now a state unto itself: Borderworld.

Roger D. Hodge in Popular Science:

ScreenHunter_17 Dec. 23 11.54As a lone male in a rented minivan headed south on a remote stretch of border highway, I almost certainly fit some kind of profile. I passed several white pickups bearing the distinctive green stripe of the U.S. Border Patrol, but my first direct encounter with the authorities did not come until I pulled off the road to study with my binoculars a white speck that I had spotted high in the cloudless sky. It was not a Predator or any other UAV that I had ever seen or read about. It looked like a blimp. I put down my binoculars just as another of the green-and-white trucks pulled up. We both lowered our windows and I asked, in my best Texan, what that thing was floating up there in the sky. “It’s a weather balloon,” the officer said with a smile. I thanked him, and we both waved as I drove off, still headed south.

In El Indio, I stopped to buy a Dr Pepper and asked the old lady behind the counter, in my best Spanish, whether she knew anything about that white thing up in the sky. She did not. I decided to inquire at the post office, but it was closed. I was wondering what to do next when a minivan pulled up. I asked the driver if she knew what that white thing was up in the sky. “It’s a satellite for the drugs,” she said. “My brother-in-law works for it.” A boy chimed in from the backseat that if I kept driving south I’d see “the building that controls it.” I thanked the woman and her boy and continued on my way. Border Patrol vehicles continued to pass me coming and going, and, as I neared the base of what I could now see was in fact a tethered blimp, one of those trucks quickly pulled up right behind me and showed no sign of passing. Although I was doing nothing illegal, I began to sweat. Soon I drove by a couple of white buildings, in front of which was a sign: United States Air Force Tethered Aerostat Radar Site.

More here.