Mr. Security's Amnesty

What are the chances George Steinbrenner, owner of Rudy Giuliani’s favorite baseball team, could be persuaded to replace the physical barriers around Yankee Stadium with virtual ones, based on the premise that cameras and sensors could do a better job than actual walls and fences in keeping people out of the stadium when they had not paid for a ticket?

Come to think about it, when he was developing his reputation as a no-nonsense, law-and-order mayor of New York City, did Rudy Giuliani convert the city jails to open spaces where prisoners were monitored via remote TV and guards were dispatched to chase them down only when the cameras showed them making a run for it?

Don’t think so.

So why is Rudy Giuliani, the security candidate, calling for a "technological fence" to stop illegal aliens from running into the United States?

The answer: Mr. Security is not serious about border security.

On Fox News’ "Hannity and Colmes" Monday night, host Sean Hannity asked Giuliani a three-part question. "There’s talk about building a fence all across the border with Mexico," said Hannity. "Do you support that? Do you support amnesty? Do you support guest workers?"

Giuliani gave a long-winded response. He never got around to saying whether he supports a guest-worker program. But the most reasonable plain-English translation of his answer on the fence is: No. The most reasonable plain-English translation of his answer on amnesty is: Yes.

Giuliani’s answer is worth examining at greater length, if only as a measure of his candor and clarity of thought on this issue.

"I support security at the borders," he started out. "I think security is enormously important in the post-Sept. 11 period. I think we have to know who’s coming into this country. We have to be able to identify them; we have to be able to figure out who they are."

So far, he gets an A-plus for conceding the obvious premise for building a fence: In an era when terrorists are seeking to kill Americans on American soil, and when analysts at Bear Stearns have estimated that there may be 20 million illegal aliens already in the United States, it would be irresponsible for the government not to secure the border as thoroughly as possible.

But then Giuliani says: "I do think that with the fence — the fence honestly has to be a technological fence. The head of my party, the new head, Mel Martinez, who is a senator from Florida, a great guy, he was being interviewed about four or five months ago, and they asked him about a fence. Do you support a fence? Do you think a fence should be put up? He said, sure, you could put up a fence, if you want, except the only people that will put it up will be the illegal immigrants. Nobody else will be building that fence. And I thought what the point that Mel was making was, we need a technological fence. We need to be able to photograph people, observe them, see them, know who’s there, record them."

Sure, why not do all those things — on the Mexico-facing side of a very real fence?

In fact, The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized 700 miles of double-fencing along the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border, would do all the things Giuliani’s "technological fence" would do, and one more thing: It would put an actual barrier in front of would-be intruders. The law specifically mandates "at least two layers of reinforced fencing" and "the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras and sensors."

So, why not build a barrier like this "all across" our border? Rudy was surely joking when he suggested it was because it would have to be built by illegal immigrants. But he gave no substantive answer.

"And then I think there has to be regularization for the people that are here," he said. "There’s got to be a program to regularize the people that are here, as you establish security at the border."

Hannity followed up, "Does that mean amnesty, though?"

"It doesn’t mean amnesty," said Giuliani.

That’s George W. Bush-talk for: Yes, it does mean amnesty.