A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START's Shoemaker presents Border Crossing findings at monthly series

This month's research roundtable featured START's Jaime Shoemaker. Shoemaker presented case studies on Border Crossings and Terrorist Attacks in the United States. This qualitative research is part of a larger study coding every publically known instance of terrorist border crossing at a U.S. border.

Shoemaker's research focused on four case studies: two land/port crossings and two airport crossings. Most of the case studies examined crossings into the United States from the Canadian border.

Land/Port Crossings

The two land/port crossing case studies included Ahmed Ressam and Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. Ressam, known as the "Millennium bomber," crossed into the United States in 1999. He used fraudulent documents when crossing and was caught at the Port Angeles U.S. Customs office when officers searched his car for a second time. Mezer attempted to cross the border three times. Shoemaker's research found both men had applied for political asylum.


Shoemaker found that the number of agents on the Northen Border has increased from nearly 300 officers in 1992, to more than 2,000 in 2011. More funding for technological improvements and increased cooperation within the United States and between the United States and Canada have helped decrease illegal border crossings.

Airport Crossings

Shoemaker's two airport crossings included the 1993 World Trade Center Bombers and North Carolina Financers. Shoemaker found both of these groups used fraudulent documents, bribed officials and traveled in groups when crossing into the United States. In both groups, members applied for political asylum when caught.


Since this time, the United States has done a number of things to increase airport safety and security, which include:

  • Creation of DHS as umbrella agency to coordinate homeland security efforts
  • Improvements in technology and passport scanning
  • Increased staffing
  • More information given to U.S. personnel before flights arrive
  • Better monitoring of visas

All together, Shoemaker's findings focused on three key points: coordination at ports of entry, mass data sharing nationally and internationally, and increased use of advanced technology.

Shoemaker will present her case study findings to Department of Homeland Security professionals at a brown bag next month.