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U. S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

 

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                           Oct. 28, 2003

Contact: 202-282-8010

 

***PREPARED AS DELIVERED*** REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY TOM RIDGE

AT THE ELCANO ROYAL INSTITUTE IN MADRID, SPAIN

Madrid, Spain


Thank you, Senor Serra for your kind introduction.  Minister Palacio, Ambassador Argyros, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: 

 

I appreciate your kind invitation and am honored to join you this morning.  I am equally honored to visit your beautiful city of Madrid…your beautiful, historic country of Spain. 

 

Spain has long stood at the apex of history…and certainly knows well the two first “isms" of our time.  It took a world war to defeat fascism, a war against enemies who dehumanized life.   It took a long protracted Cold War to defeat communism, a war against enemies who sought to overpower a way of life. 


Now we are embarked on a war against international terrorism, the third “ism.”  History has not yet recorded how this war will be characterized.  What we do know is that
Spain and the United States -- as strong nations and strong allies – are united in this war together.


Let there be no doubt that, while there have been differences with some of our most valued NATO allies, the friendships we share with Spain, with Europe, are strong and cherished. 

 

We have a transatlantic alliance so firmly based on shared beliefs and shared interests that no moments of divergence or publicly trumped-up feuds can derail it.  And those who think otherwise serve only to detract and to distract from our mutual goal – to ensure a peaceful and cooperative security environment around the world.

 

The American people know that we will always find friends and strength in multinational partners – in the European Union, in NATO, in the United Nations – in a true “culture of cooperation.”  And that is important.  Because we know all too well – from the terrorist attacks in America, in Bali, in Baghdad as recently as yesterday, in the incidents of destruction and chaos that occur each and every day across the globe – that terrorism is a global scourge, not a regional one.  And a global enemy requires a global response. 

 

Moments after 9-11, America and its allies knew full well -- the fight against global terrorism would, like the Cold War, be a battle that would not be won easily.  Perhaps not even won in our lifetime.  And yet, together, Spain and America saw the obstacles and the long road ahead and we said simply and rightly, “Let us begin.”


Less than two months ago, Americans reflected on the events of 9-11.  In places of worship and places in our hearts, we remembered.  Vivid images of loss and destruction seared into our consciousness were once again brought to the surface.  But so were other images -- images of heroic courage and incredible sacrifice.  Images of people running up burning flights of stairs.  People risking their lives to aid those trapped.  People rushing the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93.  

These are the images that resonate deep within, these are the images that motivate and inspire us when the road seems long and full of obstacles.  These are the images that remind us that ordinary people can do and will do extraordinary things.

Yes, we are recovering from the 9-11 attacks.  But we will never forget.  And our national goal to do everything possible to avoid another September 11th has and will affect how we engage the rest of the world. 

For 227 years
America's fortunes have been tied to wave after wave of immigrants from around the world.  Such openness to diversity continues today.  It is a reflection of who and what we are as a nation. 

Several hundred thousand international students attend our colleges and universities every year.  They enrich our academic community and contribute to the intellectual, cultural and scientific climate of our country.  Some choose to remain in America; most return home to better their own countries. 

Thousands of international travelers arrive every single day at our airports.  By land, by air and by sea, we welcome nearly 600 million workers, tourists, students, business travelers and families every year. 

Not too long ago, I boarded a cargo ship in the harbor of New Orleans, Louisiana.  The ship was registered in Singapore.  The crew was from India.  The cargo was American grain.  The destination was Japan. 

The U.S., by design and by desire, has been – and will always be – connected to the rest of the world.  The ultimate destination of that student or business traveler, airplane or ship that I mentioned could be any country.  The benefit of ensuring that only legitimate travelers and legitimate commerce cross our borders applies to every single nation – to all of us. 

The interconnectedness of the world today spans many sectors – military, economic, educational and, yes, even homeland or domestic security.  No one country can be truly safe without the cooperation and like-minded commitment from all others. 

This type of "interdependence" is a good thing.  It helps inspire one another to higher standards.  It compels us to be innovative and unified in our approach to security.  The terrorists who seek to harm freedom-loving countries and the people who inhabit them want to see a "house divided."  They want to cause dissension and distract us from our common goal – which is their defeat. 

If we are to be successful against them, a worldwide commitment and worldwide resolve is required.  And worldwide, that is what we are seeing.  Since the events of September 11th, a counter-terrorism coalition of nearly 170 nations has begun working together in the critical areas of law enforcement, information sharing, transportation security, cyber security and financial asset seizure.

Spain is an active, courageous and critically important participant in this global coalition.  Your efforts have made a valuable contribution to fighting terrorists inside and outside of Spain territory.  Spain played an important role in both Operation Enduring Freedom and the UN’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

 

Within the last two years, Spain’s law enforcement officials have arrested many suspected terrorists; including some allegedly instrumental in the September 11th attacks.  Spain captured two primary suspected Al Qaeda financiers, generated domestic antiterrorism reforms that have helped “spot and stop” terrorists who attempt to find sanctuary on Spanish soil, and Spain has taken a key leadership role in the rebuilding of Iraq.

 

On behalf of President Bush and all of the American people…and certainly every freedom-loving citizen of the world…I say thank you to the Spanish government, King Juan Carlos and President Aznar for these acts of great political courage, and for their commitment to the cause of freedom worldwide. 

 

On a personal note, President Bush and all of us in his Cabinet greatly value the personal and professional relationships we have with our investigative and security counterparts here in Spain. 

We are more than just allies; we are friends.  And we have been fortunate to work with you, and in the spirit of good friendship, learn from you as well.

 

Terrorism is part of Spain’s…of Europe’s…collective experience:  Germany against Baader-Meinhoff and the RAF [Red Army Faction]; France against fundamentalist threats from North Africa; the Britons against the IRA; and certainly Spain against ETA. 

 

We know that Spain is uniquely qualified to talk about terrorism.  Your country has battled ETA terrorism for more than 40 years, and ETA has killed more than 800 of your fellow countrymen.

 

Be it through murder, intimidation, revolutionary taxation, political front organizations, ETA is involved in all of the worst practices of terrorism.   President Aznar, who was himself a victim of ETA terrorism, is one of the strongest leaders in the war on terror. 

 

So I bring my case to Spain…not just to the Spanish people – not just to the Spanish government -- but to the terrorists that plague this nation – to those who see no distress in parents standing in grief over the bodies of their children, or children over the bodies of their parents.  America stands by its friends, and we will continue to stand by Spain and work toward terrorism’s defeat.   Terrorists here in this country, in our country, and everywhere must know:  No matter what your form or faction – you are civilization’s collective shame.  On this issue, the world has come together – and the world is coming after you. 

 

Some call terrorism a nuisance; some call it a fact of life.  Let them call it what they will.  But let us always speak the truth:  Terrorists are not “freedom fighters,” nor “political warriors.” 

 

Freedom fighters do not crash planes into buildings, detonate bombs in dance clubs and tourist buses, or release bioagents in subways.  Freedom fighters do not engage noncombatants in battle.  They murder.  Their motivation and methods are merely to kill what they do not understand, or what they resent and hate -- freedom-loving people around the world. 

 

Today’s terrorists run the gamut – from well-funded groups to madmen who use catastrophic acts of violence as a political instrument.  They seek the disintegration of democratic societies through attempts to undermine free governments.  They seek false glory in casualties and chaos.  As many have recognized, we have passed over into a far more menacing frontier of warfare…potentially with far more horrifying consequences.  International terrorism is the “new totalitarian threat.”  For the first time in history of humankind, a small group of people with weapons of mass destruction can wreak untold havoc in our cities and against our nations.  These perpetrators seek chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and before them lay a map of the entire world.  They will choose their targets as they choose among opportunities – whether at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge or the towers of Gaudi’s Cathedral.


Today the international community faces two realities in the fight for broad security:  One, the reality that terrorists find safe haven in hostile nations...or safe havens within the borders of failing governments and unstable regions.  And two, the reality that terrorists have ready availability to weapons of mass destruction provided by hostile regimes...as well as varying weapons of scope and scale built and tested in camps and caves across the deserts and mountain terrain in which they hide. 

 

Surely, it is no coincidence that the threat to the stability and peace of the world has coincided with the globalization of technology, transportation, commerce and communication.  The same benefits enjoyed by freedom-loving people across the world are available to terrorists as well.  That means that terrorists themselves have greater mobility, more targets and more places to hide than ever before.


That's why, on September 11th, 2001, they were able to turn passenger airplanes into missiles, with an "army" of fewer than two dozen men, and a budget of roughly a half a million dollars.

So to fight back, we too must exploit our assets. We must investigate and prosecute and confiscate.  We must utilize diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement and asset seizure – a multi-lateral approach to a multinational problem.  We must enlist stronger collaboration and cooperation, and improved information-sharing, both within nations and between them. We must use every available tool to repel these shadow soldiers.


St. Thomas Aquinas said three things are necessary for the salvation of man:  to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do.  We knew minutes after the second plane hit the
World Trade Center, what we would need to do – that is make the fullest protection of our people the highest charge of our nation.


This vision…and the actions that drive it…offer no guarantees.  The sheer depth and breadth of what occurs across America means that one slip, one gap, one vengeful person, can threaten the lives of citizens, at any time, in any number of ways. 

We can say that the American people are more secure and better prepared than ever before.  Just as the
United States and its allies adjusted priorities and tactics to defeat the enemies of old, we have developed strategies to meet the current and constant threat of terrorism. 

One needs only look back to the way things were before September 11 in our country.  Before that day, the idea of organizing major federal agencies to strengthen the U.S. government's ability to protect the homeland was viewed as intellectually very provocative but unlikely. 

 

And yet, on March 1 of this year, 22 agencies and departments and 180,000 employees were merged into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – the largest government reorganization in fifty years.   

Before September 11, ticket agents asked who packed a traveler’s bags, but little else was done in the airport or on the aircraft to provide security.   Today, from curbside to cockpit, more people and technology work to make airline travel safer.


Before September 11, we never looked in a container of cargo until it got to our shores, and nearly 20,000 containers of cargo arrive in our ports every single day.   And yet, as I speak, there is a
U.S. inspector in Rotterdam, in Singapore, in Hong Kong, and soon in Spain, working alongside our allies to ensure the safety of cargo and world commerce. 

 

Before September 11, our national stockpile of medications to protect Americans against a bioterrorist attack was drastically undersupplied.  Today, we have stockpiled a billion doses of antibiotics and vaccines, including enough smallpox vaccine for every man, woman, and child in America.   

Before September 11, agencies in the federal government saw very little need to share information and intelligence between themselves, let alone with state and local officials.  And yet, today secure communications technologies and expanded security clearances for representatives of state and local governments, along with the shared language of the Homeland Security Advisory system; create a powerful and constant two-way flow of threat information.  This means more effective actions can be taken by homeland security professionals at all levels. 

And, since standing up the Department of Homeland Security, we have also worked closely with Spain and other countries to disrupt terrorists at their source – in cities and cells all across the world.  Globally, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been detained in 90 countries.

From these collective actions, we have learned the value of building strong global partnerships – partnerships that build barriers to terrorists, and build bridges to one another.  Because our common interests go beyond our common enemies and our common values. We are also brought together by a highly integrated global economy. 

I believe it is in the global community's best interest – in terms of economic security and mutual security -- to develop a unified approach to the movement of goods and people across our regional and national borders. To do so requires the sharing of timely and appropriate information.

 

As we try to build a consensus over issues of protocols and standards, the United States is particularly sensitive to the historical, constitutional and cultural differences among nations.  We also are mindful of concerns in the European community over the issues of standards and civil liberties with respect to biometrics, machine-readable passports, border security, student visas and other security changes. 

 

If we base our discussion on the shared belief that it is in our mutual interest to know who is coming through our doors and for what purpose, if we accept that as the basis of our discussions, we will find common ground.


Reliable, accurate information does not harm civil liberties; it helps protect them.  As President Bush has said: "We are in a fight for our principles -- and our first responsibility is to live by them."  And so we will not erode the very freedoms we are charged to protect.  


Homeland security is a very human endeavor that is shaped by millions of human decisions and actions…all across the globe. 
America knows we cannot seek a double standard.  And, America knows we get what we give. 

And so we must and will always be careful to respect people’s privacy, civil liberties and reputations.  To suggest that there is a trade-off between security and individual freedoms – that we must discard one protection for the other – is a false choice.  We will not, as Ben Franklin once warned, trade our essential liberties to purchase temporary safety.  You do not defend liberty to forsake it.

Since September 11, our world has changed.  America has changed.  But much of what is important remains the same.  America is still a welcoming nation that opens her borders to citizens from all over the world.

Our promise still rests on a respect for the vast diversity of people and cultures that enrich our lives.  Freedom is still the hope of many and terrorism the choice of an embittered few.  

For centuries, tyrants and imperialists mistook power as a means to pillage and plunder.  People and potentials were squandered at the expense of royal gold and mistaken glory.  And, as a result, the history of human folly -- great massacres and human misfortunes -- is written in the textbooks of our time. 

 

But we have learned the lesson of time and events.  We have learned that great powers can work together to do great things.  Our shared respect for peace, prosperity and the rule of law brings an historic opportunity -- to enjoy peace with the world's major players for the first time in 100 years.

Two years ago, and two years since, we have seen humanity at its worst...and at its best.  But now we have hope:  Hope that great nations can meet great challenges.  In my country and yours, across
Europe and throughout the world, we are blessed by the covenant of shared values and shared vigilance.  We are both determined and self-determining.  So, we will not rest, we will not waiver, we will not relent in the fight against international terrorism. 

 

Rightly, in the end, our mutual commitment to each other and our steadfast conviction in the justice of our cause will triumph over the weapons of fear and terror wielded by any enemy.

 

Saint Isidore of Seville once wrote:  “Spain is the most beautiful of all the lands extending from the West to India; for through her, East and West receive light.”  It is this light – Spain’s belief in democracy, freedom, human rights – and the light of friendship between our two nations -- that will help secure liberty for many generations to come. 

 

So much so that years from now, historians will one day tell the story of strong allies and good friends, who in fighting for the freedoms and security of the world, surrendered neither.  Together, they will say, their salvation was their solidarity -- and their solidarity became a force for freedom throughout the world.  America is proud to join Spain as full partners, and fond friends, in this cause.

 

Thank you.

 

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