HomeNewsBriefUS Congress Bill Authorizes Wiretapping of Border Tunnel Builders
BRIEF

US Congress Bill Authorizes Wiretapping of Border Tunnel Builders

MEXICO / 9 MAR 2012 BY TATIANA FARAMARZI AND ELYSSA PACHICO EN

In response to the rising number of smugglers' tunnels found along the US-Mexico border, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Tuesday that would authorize the use of wiretapping to investigate and prosecute those conspiring to build such passageways.

The current law criminalizes the outright funding or building of tunnels and prohibits landowners from "recklessly" permitting others to build or use an unauthorized tunnel on their property. The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012, sponsored by US Representative Silvestre Reyes (D- El Paso), would expand the existing law by making it a crime to conspire to build, use, or finance a border tunnel.

The legislation would also authorize the interception of "wire, oral or electronic communications" during law enforcement investigations. Previously, wiretapping could only be authorized to monitor a drug tunnel if law enforcement could prove that drugs or other illegal contraband were involved.

According to the bill, 139 of the 149 cross-border tunnels discovered between 1990 and 2011 were found after 2001, pointing to a rise in the number of tunnels being used for moving drugs, guns, contraband, and undocumented immigrants. Smuggling tunnels have been found mainly in the US Southwest, particularly in Arizona and California, where authorities have discovered 74 and 40 tunnels, respectively, since 2006.

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

InSight Crime Analysis

By allowing the use of wiretapping, the legislation is aimed at making it easier for law enforcement to build successful cases against tunnel-builders on the US side of the border. Besides supporting police work, Washington has experimented with other approaches to better detect smugglers' tunnels, including funding research for technologies like ground radars.

The fact that prosecutors may soon be given the authority to use wiretapping against those involved in building tunnels is one sign of how the issue of border security has galvanised Congress. The question is whether updating the legal tools available to law enforcement is enough to deter the activity, or whether smugglers' increased dependence on underground passageways is inevitable, given the difficulty of properly monitoring the full extent of the US-Mexico frontier.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 11 NOV 2011

"A Cautionary Tale: Plan Colombia's Lessons for Mexico and Beyond," uses Colombia's lesson-learned and tries to apply them to the…

EL CHAPO / 22 FEB 2013

Guatemalan authorities say that a man resembling Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Latin America’s biggest drug trafficker, has been…

INFOGRAPHICS / 3 JUN 2011

In the fickle and fluid place that is the Mexican underworld, the alleged union between the Zetas and La…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…