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02 September 2003

Ridge Outlines Steps Taken to Shield U.S. From Terrorist Attacks

Strengthened information sharing supports layered defense approach

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says the United States is today considerably safer than it was before September 11, 2001, but there is still more that needs to be done to enhance the nation's safety from terrorist attacks.

"We are safer today -- and, without doubt, it is because of a new level of cooperation the President has spearheaded with our allies around the world. As the bombings in Bali, Jakarta and the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad demonstrate, terrorism touches us all," Ridge said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research center.

"Yet through layered defenses on land and sea -- through information sharing, law enforcement, inspections, presence, technology, funding, regulations and, of course, vigilance at every turn, every day -- the global community has successfully deterred threats, foiled attacks and captured many an enemy of freedom. Together, we've saved many lives. All of this progress speaks to why we are safer -- and yet our work is not done."

Ridge cited the following actions that have been taken to bolster U.S. security:

-- Through the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, information from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. intelligence community will be fused, analyzed and distributed to agencies at the federal, state and local levels who are charged with the nation's security;

-- The U.S. government has provided more than $4 billion in equipment and training to the nation's "first preventer" and "first responder" communities;

-- The U.S. government has stockpiled more than a billion doses of antibiotics and vaccines, vaccinated thousands of health care workers against smallpox and installed sensors around the country that can identify certain biological and chemical agents;

-- "Smart Border" accords with Canada and Mexico have significantly improved cooperation and coordination;

-- The U.S. government has instituted layered defenses around air travel;

-- All air carriers must now provide advanced passenger information on international flights so that high-risk passengers attempting to enter or leave the United States can be identified, and the United States has suspended the Transit without Visa program, which could have been used by terrorists to enter the United States undetected;

-- Strategies have been developed to stop the proliferation of shoulder-fired missiles that could be used to attack civil aircraft, and to improve perimeter security at the nation's busiest airports; and

-- More than 5,000 new federal air marshals are being added to the force that travels on commercial airlines.

"September 11th is a tragic moment that has not held us back; rather it has steered us ever forward -- more determined to deliver peace in a world so lacking without it," Ridge said.

Following is the transcript of Ridge's remarks:

(begin transcript)

Department of Homeland Security
Remarks of Secretary Tom Ridge
to the American Enterprise Institute

"Securing America in a Post 9/11 World"
September 2, 2003

Thank you, Chris, for that kind introduction. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate your invitation and am honored to join you this morning. May I congratulate the American Enterprise Institute on its 60th-year anniversary. New ideas and reasoned thought are the foremost instruments of a democracy. And AEI has not only widely contributed to that proud element of American life...but also has helped engage and elevate free nations everywhere in many a productive discussion.

Today I am here to address a subject that we would prefer had no reason for discussion. After all, we would, if we could, rewrite history -- and never know the pain and peril that so beset this nation two years ago. We would, if we could, never know the "new normalcy" of a war against terror that has so touched our daily lives. And yet, we would never take back the coming together of community and country that has so emboldened this nation since that tragic September day.

We do remember them. We remember the 3,000 souls -- men, women and children from 80 nations -- who rose to the heavens on the morning of September 11th. We remember them in prayers spoken in places of worship and in quiet places within our own hearts. We remember them as good friends, loving family, true heroes. And we remember those who took them from us.

Terrorists come in many forms and factions, but they are civilization's collective shame. They walk a senseless path of murder, destruction and chaos. They fight a vacant cause. They represent no religion, no form of government, no people. They salute no flag, are bound by no value system. Their motivation and methods are merely to kill what they do not understand -- freedom-loving people around the world. And yet, their actions must never go unanswered. Such an enemy must be rooted out and destroyed.

Rooted out, of course, because the followers and fanatics of terror spill insidiously across many nations around the world -- burrowed in cities and cells...hidden by mountain terrain and murderous dictators. And unlike the openly acknowledged enemies of history's largest battles, today's terrorists can be but one rogue regime or renegade that releases dangerous pathogens in the air ... one crude group of zealots in a cave with both the desire and means to obtain and use weapons of mass destruction.

Two years ago, when the clear skies darkened over Shanksville, over the Pentagon, over New York, over us all -- we vowed then, as we pledge anew today, that our actions would be decisive. We vowed then, as we pledge anew today, to do everything possible, using every means possible, to secure the themes of life our Founding Fathers set out 227 years ago -- the blessings of freedom, the promise of economic opportunity, the safety of our people. We can never guarantee that we are free from the possibility of terrorist attacks, but we can say this: We are more secure and better prepared than we were two years ago. Each and every day, we rise to a new level of readiness and response...now the highest level of protection this nation has ever known.

There are many reasons for such a statement. We start with a President who has no tolerance for hatred, no patience for cold-blooded killers. And it is under his leadership that America and its allies have exacted a war unknown to terrorists in decades before -- a global war on terrorism distinct from any battle, any conflict, any World War ever waged. From Beirut to Lockerbie to the USS Cole, we can see that terrorists are not deterred by time. But as our country has made clear: Their time is up.

It is absolutely essential to confront terrorism at its source. From Afghanistan to Iraq, coalition forces have removed dictators and taken out terrorists. They have turned the tide of tyranny to one of hope for newly freed nations. We are making progress. But, make no mistake: Terrorists have lashed out in Iraq and elsewhere not because we are failing, but because we are succeeding. And these successes remind us why we fight: Because every victory in far-away lands makes us safer here in the land of the free -- in every state, city, town and hamlet in America. That is how important the global war on terrorism is to homeland security.

In the 20th century, America wielded a strength best used in the service of peace. That was as true then as it must remain today. Yet strength must be sustained and sharpened when the enemy changes. In the 21st century, the enemy has changed. And so we must enlist a new kind of warfare. That is why the President's decision to create the Department of Homeland Security was not only a bold decision, but the right decision for the American people.

Because while it goes without saying that we will win the war against terrorism ... we will win most notably for how we fight as much as why. For this is a war in which the citizen and scientist, the computer programmer and cop on the beat, are as crucial to victory as the general and sergeant and ensign.

This is a war fought with a strategy that isn't federal, but federalist -- one proffered on the notion that we are all pledged to our Constitution ... that we are all called to serve as long as we call ourselves free. Though we would wish otherwise, there is no single technology, no single group of people, no single line of defense that can protect us. Homeland security, instead, requires a combination of those factors -- as we like to say -- "layers of defense." And in the eight months since we first launched the Department, we've made significant progress toward shoring the necessary layers of homeland security that have helped make America safer.

Information that people can act on is an invaluable weapon in any war. Through the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, information generated by this department and the entire intelligence community will be fused, analyzed and distributed for action to all of us with a stake in protecting our country. Additionally, the Department's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection unit focuses exclusively on threats to the homeland and how we can reduce our vulnerability to attack -- and strengthen critical architecture, both cyber and physical. We've also instituted systems that allow us to share critical intelligence with key individuals at the state and local level.

We are also safer today because, with strong bipartisan support, we've provided over four billion of dollars in equipment and training to our nation's "first preventer" and "first responder" communities. Certainly, the response of our cities and states during the recent blackout demonstrated how much progress we have made.

Remember one of the key fears of the anthrax incident? It was the fear that we didn't have enough antibiotics available. Well, that's no longer a problem. We are safer today because we've stockpiled more than a billion doses of antibiotics and vaccines, likewise vaccinated thousands of health care workers against smallpox and installed sensors around the country that can identify certain biological and chemical agents. This is a critical improvement that will help us save lives in the immediate aftermath of an incident.

Additionally, we are safer because security at our borders is more robust than ever before. "Smart Border" accords have significantly improved our coordination and cooperation with Mexico and Canada. We've also trained and hired new inspectors and border patrol agents. By the end of the year, we will have launched US-VISIT, which essentially creates a "virtual border." We will use biometrics to confirm the identity and status of travelers, both to and from the United States.

Equally important, we are safer because we have layered defenses around air travel -- everywhere from the curb to the cockpit. This includes measures to arm our pilots and harden cockpit doors; the expansion of the federal air marshal service to accompany travelers on flights; thousands of passenger and baggage screeners better trained to do their jobs; and federal security officers to oversee our airports.

And, under federal law, all air carriers now must provide advanced passenger information on international flights. This enables us to identify high-risk passengers attempting to enter or leave the United States. We recently suspended the Transit without Visa program, for example, when we received information that indicated terrorists might exploit that system to cause Americans harm. The important point is that when we get intelligence, we act on it.

We also have worked diligently to address the threat of shoulder-fired missile attacks on civil aviation. This effort encompasses strategies to stop the proliferation of these weapons, work with state and local officials to improve perimeter security at our busiest airports -- and develop new technologies that can counter this threat.

Progress made at our ports and waterways has also made us safer. That's why we've worked hard to extend our zone of security outward, so that our borders become our last line of defense...not the first. And that's why we've built security measures that begin thousands of miles away -- long before a container is first loaded on a ship.

We are safer today -- and, without doubt, it is because of a new level of cooperation the President has spearheaded with our allies around the world. As the bombings in Bali, Jakarta and the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad demonstrate, terrorism touches us all. So we all must be united in confronting it. Americans are a target around the globe ... as are freedom-loving people everywhere. Yet through layered defenses on land and sea -- through information sharing, law enforcement, inspections, presence, technology, funding, regulations and, of course, vigilance at every turn, every day -- the global community has successfully deterred threats, foiled attacks and captured many an enemy of freedom. Together, we've saved many lives.

All of this progress speaks to why we are safer -- and yet our work is not done. The constant, daily effort to protect both liberty and life must continue in both tangible and intangible ways. In homeland security, we have to be right thousands of times a day. A terrorist only has to be right once.

Every day, Homeland Security works to deliver on our mission to better prevent, prepare and respond to a terrorist attack. We've pursued that mission not merely by setting up one authority for 22 disparate agencies, but by setting goals and meeting them. And we are. We're meeting our goals by reorganizing to better mobilize the people and resources of the Department to make America more secure. Today, I'd like to announce a few new initiatives that illustrate this philosophy at work.

At the beginning of this year, for example, I announced the reorganization of our border security agencies. Today I am pleased to report that we are further delivering on our promise to strengthen security at airports, seaports and land-border crossings. We're doing this through an initiative that will unify the border inspection process under one Customs and Border Protection Officer, an officer cross-trained to address all three inspection needs.

Traditionally, travelers first stop at a primary inspection booth -- and meet an immigration inspector. Then a second stop, with a Customs inspector. Then, if they have food or plants with them, they meet an employee of USDA, a trained agriculture inspector. The disadvantage there was that each inspector was trained for only one specific area. The other two issues were somebody else's problem. The three separate faces of government and the many inefficiencies that go with it will soon be gone. We will have one face in one uniform -- a single officer trained for primary inspection as well as how to determine who needs to go through secondary inspections.

And since we know that al-Qaeda is interested in entering our ports illegally, this officer -- now trained in all three areas of inspection and armed with the best intelligence we have -- improves our ability to spot and stop terrorists quickly and keep them out. We have already recruited our first group of CBP officers, who will be trained throughout this fall. For DHS, this is another significant step toward our efforts to retool where it makes sense and create efficiencies and unity around a single mission.

Another goal we are meeting is to increase our level of readiness and response in aviation security. Today, I am announcing a plan that will dramatically increase the number of armed federal law enforcement officers available to protect passenger aircraft during times of increased threat. This will be achieved by realigning TSA's Federal Air Marshal's Service with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This realignment offers a sweeping gain of additional armed law enforcement officials who will be able to provide a "surge capacity" during increased threat periods or in the event of a terrorist attack. Importantly, with this single move we will be able to deploy more than 5,000 additional armed federal law enforcement agents to the skies. Again, it's another way we're meeting our goal to maximize resources to better protect our citizens.

We must continue to meet our goal to harness America's innovative spirit and develop technologies that can better secure our country. I urge Congress to act quickly and pass the '04 budget, which includes a critical research and development funding increase of 60 percent. That increase will make DHS one of the largest resources of R&D funding and provide hundreds of millions of dollars toward the development and deployment of new technologies. These new technologies offer the promise of assessment and detection capabilities of virtually every possible kind. On the horizon, for example, are sensors that can detect whether an individual has been handling radioactive materials, or has been immunized against or exposed to dangerous pathogens or chemicals -- potential indicators of terrorist activity.

In that same spirit, we've initiated development of "smoke alarm" like devices that can be placed in facilities, on lamp posts, at inspection stations, to detect any release of suspicious pathogens or chemical agents. And when used inside facilities, the sensors will be able to link with the air handling system, to automatically and optimally redirect air flows to contain any possible threat.

Finally, in January, I spoke of the Department's goal to build strong partnerships with our state and local authorities. We have met this goal with great speed and success. State and local communication and coordination, after all, reflects the very nature of homeland security -- the homeland working with hometowns to keep America safe and free. One way we are further strengthening state and local partnerships is a new initiative that will create a single point of access for locating DHS grant and program information quickly and efficiently. Under this new initiative, we plan to work with Congress to centralize our terrorism preparedness grant programs into one location within the organization. I will send a plan to Congress shortly that provides details. As part of this new effort, we will also launch a web portal designed to make these grants more accessible while also simplifying the application process.

The overall benefit is clear: No longer will our state and local partners have to go to different places within the department to apply for terrorism-related funding. It ensures that nationwide, homeland security officials have one place where they can tap into the resources and information they need -- from applying for funds to protect critical infrastructure ... to securing guidance and expertise for first responders. It's a clear win-win for state and locals ... and DHS.

Another one of our primary objectives is to share information with those officials in each state who are in the critical loop of response and authority. Sometimes this information is actionable. Other times it's simply more important for us to pass the information along, so that statewide intelligence is as up to date as ours.

This hasn't always been effectively possible because of a lack of secure telephone and videoconferencing equipment at the state level and too few state officials with the appropriate security clearances. To fill this need and build another defensive layer, I'm pleased to tell you that we have recently launched Homeland Security's Strategic Communications Resources Initiative -- also known as the SECURE Initiative. Already under this new effort, we have provided all 50 states, as well as 2 territories and the District of Columbia, with the capability to communicate over secure phones and videoconferencing equipment.

Also, every state governor, and just about every state Homeland Security Adviser now has access to classified information and the appropriate top-secret federal security clearances to receive it. And just recently, we have gone back to our nation's governors and asked them to identify five other people within their state to receive the same level of clearance.

One of our key tools of information-sharing with our state and local partners is our Homeland Security Threat Advisory System. Intelligence information is, often, both vague and strategic in nature. When we do decide to raise or lower the level of elevation, it is based on the most careful and best assessment of the U.S. intelligence community. The purpose of raising or lowering the threat level is to help state and local authorities know what to do. From that point, they can then make informed decisions about when, where and to what degree they need to strengthen security within their states and cities. The system was, in fact, designed for regional or sector-specific warnings, but frankly, we've never received specific, credible information that would enable us to use the system in that way. Nevertheless, as the system works now, it continues to offer a vitally important means of communicating information with our state and local partners.

One promising observation of note, is that we are far more secure at Code Yellow today than a year ago when we launched the Threat Advisory System. The Code Yellow of today reflects stronger, more comprehensive security at our borders, at our airports and seaports. The Code Yellow of today signals a stronger national and international intelligence network, stronger partnerships with our global, state, local and private sector partners. The Code Yellow of today means that, every day, we inspect more passengers and containers, guard more territory, equip and train more first responders and engage our citizens in a two-way conversation about this nation's security -- and their safety -- unprecedented in modern times. And because of these efforts, because of this progress, because without hesitation we as a people came to our country's defense and the charge of terrorism's defeat, we are safer.

Now more than ever there's a level of preparedness -- and thus a level of security -- grounded in the purest notions of performance and outcomes ... partnerships and patriotism ... the preservation of freedom and our accountability to its future. Since 9-11, we have worked as only a true nation does -- to do great things together. We have built higher barriers to terrorism and better bridges to each other. We have worked hard to protect our freedoms and to ensure that our freedoms protect us. We have learned the lesson of time and events.

September 11th is a tragic moment that has not held us back; rather it has steered us ever forward -- more determined to deliver peace in a world so lacking without it. Because now we know: Adversity begets unity. Unity yields resolve. Resolve secures our freedom. And freedom -- like hope -- does not disappoint.

And so, in unity, resolve, freedom and hope, let us continue on in the great work we are in. Let us forge ahead in the war on terror. That is the President's charge. It is mine. It is the charge of all Americans. It is the call to every freedom-loving nation around the world. I join you in full confidence that we will succeed.

(end transcript)