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09 April 2003

Ridge Outlines New Security Measures for Commerce, Transportation

(Says goal is security plus free flow of people and goods) (570)
By Anthony Kujawa


Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- The United States faces a "two-pronged challenge" in
protecting its transportation and commerce systems, says Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Tom Ridge: safeguarding them and the
nation's security while, at the same time, ensuring that the free flow
of people, goods and commerce is not disrupted.

Speaking April 9 to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation, Ridge outlined numerous security initiatives and
updated the committee on progress made in organizing the new
Department of Homeland Security, which brings together 22 government
agencies.

Senator John McCain, the committee chairman, stressed the importance
of the new security initiatives for commerce and transportation,
saying the policies being formulated by the DHS "will forever change
how commerce and passengers move domestically and internationally" and
have significant impact on U.S. relations with Canada, Mexico and
other trading partners throughout the world.

Ridge said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of DHS has
made great progress. With additional air marshals, electronic baggage
screening, and perimeter security at airports, he said, "commercial
aviation is far, far safer and more secure today than it was on
September 10th, 2001."

He said approximately 95 percent of the 6000 U.S. commercial airliners
now have hardened cockpit doors, and the first training session in the
program to arm certain pilots will begin April 14.

Responding to the concern of one committee member that security
reforms not "gut civil liberties," Ridge stressed that assessments of
individuals airline passengers as possible threats by the new CAPPS II
(Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) will be deleted from
TSAs computers immediately after the passengers' flights are
completed.

"Our goal is to enhance the screening of airline passengers. CAPPS II
will not degrade the civil liberties of Americans," he said.

Ridge also outlined numerous initiatives to facilitate efficient but
safe trade. One such program is the Container Security Initiative
(CSI), which identifies high-risk cargo containers and cooperates with
other governments to prescreen those containers at foreign ports
before they are shipped to the U.S.

Another is the Customs-Trade Partnership Initiative (C-TPAT), through
which over 2000 companies have performed "comprehensive
self-assessments of their supply chain" and agreed to make security
improvements to protect against potential terrorist exploitation. In
return, the companies receive expedited processing through land, sea
and air points of entry into the United States.

Ridge said the DHS has also initiated a $28 million project, Operation
Safe Commerce, that will "analyze existing supply chains and current
security practices and provide a test-bed for potential solutions and
improvements in the security and movement of container cargo."

The DHS will also use its Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)
computer technologies to help target "high risk cargo" while
expediting "the vast majority of low-risk trade." These projects, said
Ridge, will "ultimately improve the security of the international and
domestic supply chain."

Throughout his testimony, Ridge stressed that transportation security
is a "collaborative effort" between Federal and local governments, the
private sector and individuals. "Together we have made great advances
in securing our transportation systems, protecting civil liberties,
and ensuring the free flow of people and commerce, but we recognize
that more needs to be done and we will continue to make progress every
day," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)