From the beginning, the tough talk about beefing up security along the southern border of the United States has had a half-hearted quality to it. The government really wasn't ready to dedicate the time, money and personnel to get the job done. A cynic would say border security was simply a measure tossed into immigration reform to placate the hard-liners.

So it came as no surprise when a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that more than 90 percent of illegal immigrants who cross the border get into the United States — almost all by using phony documents. As we reported in an editorial several months ago, even before the wall went up and the electronic gadgetry was put in place, illegal immigrants were already abandoning the harrowing dash across the desert — which cost $2,000 apiece — and paying $5,000 to counterfeiters in Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez and other Mexican border towns to produce bogus visas and other legal papers.

In short, there is no beef in the beefed-up border security policies.

One reason the nation struggles with security issues is American citizens have never been willing to embrace the draconian measures that true hard-core security requires. Freedom in American always tends to trump security. Airport screeners often seem more worried about the inconvenience to passengers than in rooting out scoundrels. And soldiers carrying weapons has a totalitarian tinge that sends a chill through most free societies.

And, at the border and elsewhere, America settles for second-rate security. Those wanting to come into the country are simply more committed and more willing to sacrifice than those wanting to keep them out.

Ironically, for years the United States complained that Mexico only went through the motions in battling drugs when real results were called for. Now, it is the United States — with its newfangled detectors and half-hearted wall — that seems to be giving its own initiatives a glossed over effort that does little more than drive the desperate to use other means.