WASHINGTON - The Canada-U.S. border has been a problematic one, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday, which is why both countries are working together to "harden" the Canadian boundary.
"Americans are worried about every port and point of entry; I don't think we have any lesser concern about any other route into our country than any other one," Clinton told a news conference.
"I represented New York for eight wonderful years, and our border was pretty porous, just to be blunt. And it had never been a problem before. You know, we had both land and water points of entry that had been traditionally used without any questions being asked."
Clinton was responding to a question about why so many Americans still believe the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada - an oft-repeated myth that she herself has in the past been known to state as fact - but didn't answer it directly.
"Obviously, we're proud of the long, peaceful border that we share with Canada, but I think it is fair to say that since 9-11 we have been working with our friends in Canada to try to harden that border, to try to provide both more personnel and technology," she said.
"Unfortunately given the security environment that we have to deal with today, we have been focused on making sure that our northern border was as secure as possible."
Clinton was referring to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a measure that will require all travellers to the U.S. to carry a passport as of June 1.
The challenge in developing a Canada-U.S. border policy, Clinton said, is achieving security "without undermining either our relationship or the trade in goods and services, the tourism, the natural flow of people who both work and go to school and recreate on both sides of the border."
Nonetheless, many observers in Canada have fretted that the Americans are formulating border policy based on fallacies about the Canada-U.S. boundary.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano suggested last month the 9-11 terrorists came from Canada. She also said Canada's immigration regulations are far more lax than those in the U.S., and said Canadian authorities allow people into the country who would never be granted entry south of the border.
Napolitano later insisted she knew there was no Canadian connection to 9-11, but within days Arizona Senator John McCain, last year's Republican presidential candidate, repeated the claim.
Republican Newt Gingrich also had to apologize to the Canadian ambassador in 2005 for making the claim.