23 November 2004
United States, EU Discuss Border, Transport Security
Homeland Security's Hutchinson, EC's Faull brief
press on dialogue
Cargo security, travel document security policies, and use of
advanced passenger data were among the main items of discussion
during the U.S.-European Union Policy Dialogue on Border and Transport
Security in Washington November 22.
The United States and the European Union (EU) agreed to exchange
information on technologies and best practices "so that we can
invest and we can communicate better together," said Asa Hutchinson,
under secretary for border and transportation security at the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security, at a joint press conference with
European Commission Director-General Jonathan Faull.
"In our discussions, it was clear to me that the European Union
has accelerated their counterterrorism efforts, and we are grateful
for that," said Hutchinson.
He expressed delight with the recent signing of a U.S.-EU agreement
on the Container Security Initiative, and the provisional EU decision
to include not only facial recognition but also finger scans on
biometric travel documents.
Both Faull and Hutchinson spoke of the importance of improving
security systems in a way that would not place an undue burden
on the airlines or passengers.
"We need to move urgently to the new system of Secure Flight," Hutchinson
said, referring to a plan that places the responsibility for comparing
passenger information with a terrorist watch list on government
security personnel rather than airline personnel.
The Secure Flight program also envisions looking at passenger
information in advance of a flight rather than 15 minutes after
a flight takes off, as is now the case.
Also participating in this second meeting of the joint policy
dialogue were representatives from the U.S. departments of Justice
and State, European Commission, the EU Presidency and the EU Council
Secretariat. The next meeting will take place in Brussels, Belgium,
in spring 2005, according to Faull.
A transcript of the press conference follows:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
November 22, 2004
TRANSCRIPT OF UNDER SECRETARY ASA HUTCHINSON AND EUROPEAN UNION
DIRECTOR-GENERAL JONATHAN FAULL AT PRESS CONFERENCE
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Good morning. I'm Asa Hutchinson, Under
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and I am pleased
to be here today and joined by my colleague from the European
Union, Jonathan Faull, Director General of Justice and Liberty,
formerly Justice and Home Affairs. And this is a report on our
policy dialogue on border and transportation security issues.
This is the second meeting that we've had, which has become an
important part of our discussions with the EU. We have been joined
today by General Faull's colleagues from the European Union and
the Dutch presidency. We also have been joined by my colleagues
from the Department of State and Department of Justice as well
as the Department of Homeland Security.
This dialogue is a very serious policy discussion on how we can
enhance security, the exchange of information and the communications
and common security enhancements between the European Union and
the United States.
First reviewed: Some of the recommendations of the 9/11 report,
which is very timely as a result of the legislations being considered,
but also President Bush's actions through Executive Orders. And
in our discussions, it was clear to me that the European Union
has accelerated their counterterrorism efforts, and we are grateful
for that. We believe that it's because of the enhanced discussions
as well as the common concerns that we have on the continued concerns
Illustrating that, I believe, is the biometric decision that was
provisionally made by the European Union that provided not only
facial recognition, but also finger scans. We were delighted with
the recent signing of the agreement between the United States and
the European Union on the Container Security Initiative that will
build and enhance our bilateral relationships in that regard.
During the course of the discussions today, we agreed for an exchange
of information on technologies and better common practices -- best
practices -- on science and technology so that we can invest and
we can communicate better together in terms of the new security
technologies that will be necessary as we face a common threat.
I was pleased with the progress that had been made on lost and
stolen passports, both the entry of information -- I believe it's
1.7 million data points from the European Union being put into
the Interpol database from 49 countries. Also, of course, the United
States entering data into that system that will give us quicker
information for our inspectors at our Ports of Entry.
We talked about visa lookout information, sharing information
on terrorists, those that we should look out for as we respond
to the 9/11 Commission's report on identifying terrorist travel.
And I was grateful for the European Union's statement of support
for us to work bilaterally with the member states to increase the
exchange of visa lookout information.
So we look forward to the continued dialogue. I'm grateful for
the very honest and frank exchange. And I think it illustrates
that we face a common threat and we're willing to work on it in
a common way.
With that, Jonathan.
MR. FAULL: Thank you, Asa, and good morning, everybody. Yes, it
has been an extremely fruitful meeting for myself, and my colleagues
from Brussels, and from the Dutch Government in The Hague. This
is the second meeting of this policy dialogue. It has proved already
an extremely worthwhile exercise. There is no shortage of extremely
important issues we find necessary to discuss. And it is accompanied
by a whole range now of informal contacts between colleagues on
both sides of the Atlantic on matters of mutual concern.
But it's very useful to come together in this plenary format twice
a year, which we are now doing, and I'm sure we will continue to
do so, and I look forward to the next meeting in Brussels next
spring as we review the many activities, legislative and operational,
which we are involved in on both sides of the Atlantic.
We have a great number of common challenges. We have a very large
measure of agreement between us on the way to meet those challenges.
Sometimes we have, because of our different legal and political
environments, differences that we have to explain to each other
and find a way to work through. All of that is helped by a very
frank and open and friendly discussion, which we were able to have
again today. Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Questions?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in light of the spirit of cooperation
that's been engendered between the U.S. and European Union, are
you optimistic that this will eventually, I guess, alleviate problems
like the one that took place over the weekend where persons who
are on lists, are on planes in the air before it's recognized?
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: That's an important part of an issue
that we have to work through together. These are problems that
cannot be solved unilaterally. And the issues involved in that
are, first of all, that we had a discussion about changing our
advance passenger information that is provided now 15 minutes after
an airplane takes off. We obviously want to change that to move
it forward so we have more time to check the lists in a timely
way and we listened to concerns in regard to that.
Secondly, obviously, we want to fulfill our testing of Secure
Flight, and the new system that will allow the government, rather
than the airlines, to have the responsibility for comparing the
passenger manifest list with the terrorist watch list. And this
is a huge burden that's being placed on the airlines. This new
program will help alleviate that. So yes, we obviously need to
improve our systems and these initiatives will help us to do that.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Do you have any ballpark timeframe
on when we might arrive at the point when something like this won't
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Well, I mean, obviously, you want
systems to work perfectly but I don't know that when you have systems
that are built upon human information and human responses that
you're ever going to have a totally perfect system.
So I think that we have to build a better system, which we're
designed to do, that will greatly reduce and minimize these types
of incidents happening. But also you have to develop a system that's
capable of responding and having a good checks and balance and
that has layered defenses. It's not simply relying upon one particular
QUESTION: Congress, last year, the deadline on visa waiver countries
to acquire biometric passports, they extended that deadline by
one year, which I gather means it comes up again next October.
I want to ask Mr. Faull, is that a deadline that most European
countries think they can reach? And if not, I wanted to ask Mr.
Hutchinson, are you thinking about asking Congress for another
extension for the two years that you're (inaudible)?
MR. FAULL: Well, we are working very hard to introduce biometric
features into European passports, and not only because of this
U.S. measure but because we think it's the right thing to do. We
want to make our identity documents reliable and make sure that
the person presenting one is really the person to whom the passport
was issued. And, therefore, two things are happening in parallel.
Our member states are very busy already based on already reached
understandings of the technical requirements are beginning to produce
their passports and we have legislation going through our system
to provide the necessary legal framework for that.
Now, we think that the legislation will probably end up requiring
the introduction of the biometric -- the first biometric identifier,
the facial image, 18 months after adoption of the legislation,
which we hope will be at the end of this year. That means that
we may not be able to meet precisely the deadline currently enshrined
in U.S. legislation. But we are working towards that.
There are obviously a very large number of passports issued to
citizens in the member states of the European Union and it's going
to take some time to roll out, first of all, the standards, the
technology, and then actually go through the process of issuing
people with their new passports. But it's only a matter of months,
perhaps the 18 months, starting from the end of this year, if all
goes, we will be there pretty soon, and some of our countries may
get there earlier.
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Well, as you know, the Administration
asked Congress for a two-year extension on the biometric deadline.
Congress gave a one-year extension, and so our natural response
is to work very aggressively with our allies overseas to meet that
deadline. Obviously, as Jonathan indicated, it poses its challenges.
So we are simply working hard to do all that we can to meet the
We have worked with our allies to test the reading of the new
biometric passports to make sure that our readers, our chips are
meeting common standards, and that testing is going well. But,
obviously, that has to be completed before, you know, production
is implemented. So we will continue to work with Congress, advise
them of the status, but we're working aggressively to meet the
deadline they have given to us.
QUESTION: Secretary Hutchinson, when you spoke to Europe about
the (inaudible) issue, the press coverage there focused on the
suggestion that people wanting to come to the United States might
have to pre-board as much as an hour before takeoff, in order that
the passenger manifest be completed in time. Do you foresee --
I mean, do you see that as a problem? And how do you intend to
deal with it? And, Mr. Faull, could you say whether you think European
people, as opposed to the European Governments, or how the European
people, as well as the European governments, would react to that
kind of --
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: On my part of the answer, you know,
in order to engage in discussions, you need to throw out a straw
person here 60 minutes in advance to get comment on. And so, we
have had oral discussions in a number of frameworks in order to
get the comments of the airlines, the airports, as well, and so
we're working through this process. There's nothing been formally
presented in terms of a proposed rule.
There is a -- concerns have been expressed about how long in advance,
you know, in the current framework. That information can be provided.
How long does it take the government to check it against watch
lists to make the right decisions? We're working through those
issues and we'll make adjustments as needed, not to compromise
security, but to make sure we don't place an undue burden on industry.
MR. FAULL: I agree entirely. Nobody wants flights delayed unnecessarily,
but everybody wants flights to be absolutely secure and you don't
want people on planes who shouldn't be there. We have to find the
best way to use all that modern technology offers us and the best
possible human judgment because that's what it comes down at the
end of the day. Somebody has to use the information provided by
all of this technology to make decisions without having people
sitting on planes for an hour or having to check in many hours
before takeoff because we have to keep the wheels of commerce and
tourism and contacts between our continents turning smoothly.
So those are the objectives. They don't have to be mutually inconsistent.
We have to try to meet them all. And that is what we're discussing.
There will be further discussions. We don't want incidents of the
sort reported in the Air France case to happen. I don't have the
details here to precisely what did happen, so I don't want to be
drawn into commenting on that particular incident. But we do need
to improve our systems so that the necessary checks can be made
without placing an undue burden on the airlines, or, as you say,
more importantly, on their passengers.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Hutchinson, in your opening remarks you mentioned
Secure Flight, and I'm wondering, given the EU's privacy concerns,
is this going to pose any problem for U.S. plans to implement Secure
Flight early next year, and how are you going to resolve those
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: I do not see any difficulty in proceeding
with the testing of Secure Flight. That testing was permitted under
the original PNR agreement and we have actually restrained our
testing where we're not using European legs of flight for our testing
of that data. And then, secondly, we did talk about also a joint
review of the PNR agreement that will be upcoming early next spring,
and so we're both mutually looking forward to that. We hope, of
course, that that will give assurance to the European audience
that we're taking the right privacy protections as we utilize that
QUESTION: Going back to the issue of the passports containing
biometric data, when will the United States start issuing passports
containing these biometric data to your U.S. citizens? And when
do you expect that all U.S. citizens will be carrying these passports?
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Well, the State Department is in a
better position to answer that. That responsibility falls on them,
and I think they're moving aggressively, from the report I heard
today, that they will be prepared as soon as this testing is completed
to start issuing the biometric passports. And I'll let them comment
more specifically on that following the meeting.
QUESTION: You mentioned an agreement on better information exchange
on science and technology. Can you give us some more detail on
that? What specifically do you envision and what -- which types
of technology in particular you were talking about?
MR. FAULL: Well, there is a great deal of scientific research
being done here and in the European Union on security-related issues,
and we are providing increasing amounts of funding through European
Union programs and there are many national programs, of course,
in our members' states on this. You are doing very much the same
thing over here and it makes sense for the people on both sides
of the Atlantic to talk to each other and to compare notes and
to exchange views and to consider the results.
That is happening already to a certain extent informally, but
we took advantage of our meeting here today to bring some of the
people involved in this together and they will now pursue between
themselves contacts to make sure that cooperation takes place properly.
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Two specific items that, you know,
I think -- we're investing a substantial amount in MANPADs defense,
in the commercial aviation arena. Obviously, there is work being
done in Europe in investments. That information should -- would
be mutually beneficial.
Secondly, in the area of multithread sensors, where we really
have an urgent need. I know there's work being done on both sides
of the Atlantic on this. We need to be able to share that type
of information and particularly as we make common investments.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details on what happened on that
Air France flight, how somebody on the no-fly list with an expired
passport and no visa? Was it just a big, giant screw-up by Air
France, or do you know anything?
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: I could not provide you enormous details.
I was, obviously, contacted over the weekend about that. As it
becomes an operational issue, the first issue we address is how
to handle the flight safely and to deal with the information that
we have. Secondly, there will be a review as to how that happened.
But clearly, the 9/11 Commission report admonished us and one
of our responsibility is to combine databases to make sure that
we're sharing information. As we do that, terrorist watch lists
expand in terms of their number. That becomes more challenging.
Right now, the burden is on the airline to make the comparison.
Again, we need to change the system so the burden does not fall
on them. But because of the more -- the greater amount of information,
we hope that this can be minimized but we're going to run into
this from time to time and we want the airlines to be more diligent
about doing the checks. We'll be more diligent about following
up, but also we need to move urgently to the new system of Secure
Flight to avoid this in the future.
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: One more question.
QUESTION: In terms of Secure Flight, I guess the eventual idea
is that the U.S. Government will match the passengers (inaudible)
to the terrorist watch list. How would that, in terms of European
travelers, like what happened with Air France, would that really
change anything since it happened in France, so how will Secure
Flight sort of help with the international aspect when the planes
originate overseas, or is that sort of separate?
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Well, it will apply because we're
looking at advance passenger information for these flights that
originate from overseas coming to the United States. So the new
rule would apply to those flights, give us the information in advance,
and so it's a little bit of two separate issues. One is a Secure
Flight program that we're speaking of, but the other one is the
advanced passenger information that would get that kind of data
in advance so we could do the check in advance.
Thank you very much.
MR. FAULL: Thanks.
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Do you have anything else, Jonathan?
I didn't mean to cut you off.
MR. FAULL: No.
UNDER SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: Good.