Washington -- The fight against terrorism is, in essence, a test of will and fortitude, says outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
During a speech January 14 at the London School of Economics, Ridge said, “In the end, the struggle against terror is not a test of military strength” but a test of will and fortitude. Terrorists are not going to stop attacking so the fight against them will be long and hard, thereby testing the collective strength of nations, alliances, and even citizens, the secretary added.
The key to success is to “engage the world community, work together multilaterally and foster healthy dialogue and strategic cooperation among allies,” Ridge said. The need for multilateral cooperation became evident, he said, when he first began outlining domestic security priorities, because without it “efforts to secure America would not succeed.”
Ridge also addressed criticism that antiterrorism measures carry too high a cost with respect to individual liberties. “Let me be clear,” he said, “all of the additional security capabilities that we are building have not, cannot and will not ever come at the expense of … our shared values and … liberties.”
The former Pennsylvania governor discussed several programs as successes in improving mutual security, including: the Cargo Container Security Initiative, the International Maritime Organization’s new code for ships and port facilities, the U.S.-European Union agreement on personal name records for airline passengers, the U.S.-U.K. Joint Contact Group on Homeland Security, and the U.S.-VISIT (Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology.) Program, which uses biometric information.
When such programs are combined with seizing terrorist assets, disrupting their cells and arresting members, and using military force where necessary, he said, it is possible to make significant progress: “together we are ‘getting it done.’”
Ridge quoted economist John Maynard Keynes on ideas that shape the course of history. He said, though, that important ideas of one era don’t always survive into another. Communism, fascism, and Nazism arose and fell in the last century, he said.
The idea, which defeated those three, he said, is the “conquering ideal” of freedom. He called it an idea that “has weathered the storms, endured through centuries and thrives today.” He said it brings hope, light, and comfort, as it shapes our history and strengthens our resolve.
Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge at the London School of Economics
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 14, 2005
(Remarks as Prepared)
Thank you Dr. Sked for that warm introduction. I’m honored to join you today and grateful for the opportunity to address the students and professors of this distinguished institution of learning. For more than a century the London School of Economics has fostered a rigorous intellectual environment that has drawn students from all over the world.
From these halls have emerged many who have left their distinctive mark on society. The leadership of John F. Kennedy, the literary triumphs of George Bernard Shaw, the music of Mick Jagger – each represents the rich and diverse tradition in which all of you share. Here ideas are put through the crucible of debate to challenge and develop the minds of those who would go forward into the world to make a difference. And, now more than ever, we need dedicated thinkers to help shape the discourse and define the way ahead as we confront the menace of international terrorism.
Though hardly a new phenomenon – fear and terror have always been the weapons wielded by those who would oppress the innocent and enslave the free. Many nations, including the United Kingdom, have a long history of facing down the indiscriminate evil that is terrorism. Yet as the world community has become more connected through the globalization of technology, transportation, commerce and communication, the benefits of these advances enjoyed by each of us are available to terrorists as well. With greater mobility, more targets and more places to hide than ever before, the terrorists have become emboldened to strike with increased frequency and with far more devastating consequences than ever before.
The tragic events of 9/11 were the opening sally in this new chapter of terrorism. That dark day forever changed our nation, and also illustrated to the world the scope and scale of which terrorists are now capable. Subsequent attacks in Madrid, Beslan, Bali and Jakarta, Istanbul and Baghdad have hammered home that what was once the purview of individual nations is now the responsibility of every nation that stands on the side of hope and liberty.
The scourge of global terrorism requires the strength of a global response. And the means to confront the terrorist threat successfully rests in our ability to engage the world community, work together multilaterally and foster healthy dialogue and strategic cooperation among allies.
As we have seen with the recent tsunami disaster, when tragedy strikes, its impacts are felt far and wide. The loss of so many lives – mothers, fathers, children…gone in an instant...it is a powerful reminder. A reminder that we are indeed one people. That at the end of the day our differences do not outweigh the humanity that defines and binds us. And that the most effective course to protect our citizens and our homelands is the one we pursue together.
This is the defining notion that has and must continue to govern our approach to homeland security in the United States. Following the attacks of 9-11, even as we set out a national strategy to deal with a wide range of issues around the notion that we need to prevent, detect, respond and recover from acts of terrorism.
We knew instinctively that there was an international need and opportunity. An opportunity to build relationships that would prove mutually beneficial to the protection of our people and economies. Within the national strategy, as we outlined domestic security priorities, it became clear that our efforts to secure America would not succeed without international collaboration.
Something that I will always remember as Secretary was the impact of the first question that was asked to me at the first town meeting I had with employees of the new Homeland Security Department before we even opened the doors. A gentleman stood up, approached the microphone and asked, “What are the international implications of homeland security?” I expected the first question to be about benefits or integration challenges. Instead, I saw that here was someone that gets it.
Visionary and prescient, this person already had a real understanding not only of the reach of our organization but also the importance of international partnership. The knowledge that homeland security is more than just the integration of a nation – but the integration of nations.
And it is because of our work together as an international community…as partners…that we have been able to travel an incredible distance in a short amount of time. Back in November of 2002, we began our first formal outreach to the European community during a trip to Brussels and London. At the time, what began as fruitful bilateral and multilateral discussions have now resulted in hard outcomes and tremendous security advances. And over the past two years, a remarkable record of accomplishment has been achieved.
In the area of maritime security, we have made marked progress with programs such as the Container Security Initiative. During that November trip, in fact, CSI only existed as a pilot in Rotterdam where U.S. Customs inspectors were working alongside their Dutch counterparts to target and screen cargo.
Since that time, the United States and European Union signed an agreement to expand CSI throughout the European Community and increase cooperation and mutual assistance on other customs matters. So what began in Rotterdam as a bilateral initiative has now grown to include Felixstowe, Liverpool, Southampton, Thamesport, and Tilbury here in the United Kingdom and 28 other locations around the world.
In addition, efforts to secure the vast global shipping industry that were once isolated and scattered are now coordinated under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code developed by the IMO and put in place this July. For the first time ever, this international effort establishes one world standard for ship and port security. It helps create a culture of security at ports around the world and mandates specific security improvements and safeguards.
On a daily basis, we share information about a variety of threats that greatly aids our efforts to remain ahead of our creative and determined enemy. From a personal perspective, through the work and negotiations during my time as Secretary there are two specific accomplishments we made together that also provided valuable lessons learned. During the holiday period of 2003, we came into possession of intelligence that terrorists might attempt to take over several international flights, and as a result issued emergency aviation amendments. Quite frankly, we made a mistake in going directly to the airlines rather than the respective governments. A misstep on our part that led to initial and unnecessary confusion.
However, a positive security outcome did result -- the creation of a 24-hour civil aviation point of contact network to facilitate communication in the future. Yet perhaps more important was the lesson we took away -- that the primary means of communication must be government to government. It was a real life, real world experience that reinforced our understanding of the value and necessity of the international partnerships we’d been working so diligently to build.
The second lesson was learned during our negotiations with the E.U. to address mutual privacy concerns governing the transfer of sensitive passenger name record – or PNR – data on flights between Europe and the United States. And that lesson was…even though we may have differences of opinion, the place from where we start is often closer than we think.
For example, the American public cares about privacy rights as deeply as Europeans do. And while negotiations were intense the ultimate PNR agreement that emerged reflects the imperative value both Europeans and Americans place on civil liberties.
Having access to PNR data will facilitate the entry of legitimate travelers and expedite the entry of the vast majority of visitors who travel throughout the world without any malicious intent, while helping to identify people who could pose a threat to passengers on the flight or to the security of our countries.
To ensure that the privacy protections we put in place are sufficient, in the coming months, the United States and E.U. will conduct our first joint review of how we use PNR in our counter terrorism efforts.
And let me be clear: all of the additional security capabilities that we are building have not, cannot and will not ever come at the expense of our fundamental values or individual liberties. Our shared values and our shared liberties.
We should never underestimate our commonality – the collective commitment to freedom that propels our sense of urgency to come together, debate complex issues and work through difficult decisions. For as we draw closer together and build bridges to one another…those partnerships build barriers to terrorists and eliminate the gaps our enemies could otherwise exploit.
And no partnership is stronger than that between Britain and the United States. In nearly every field of human endeavor, we are bound together by our common interests, common goals and mutual respect. We share a vital and valuable trust built over decades – in truth centuries – of relying on each other as allies and friends.
More than fifty years ago, a great British statesman addressed a collection of young American students at Harvard. He used these words to describe the traits that bond our countries so closely, “common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice, and above all the love of personal freedom.” The values Churchill so eloquently articulated, the values that joined us together through two world wars are the same values that have brought us together and guide us now as we confront this, the great struggle of our time.
During my first trip to London over two years ago, we met with David Blunkett, members of the Home Office, MI5 and basically received a primer to help shape our efforts in developing our own Department of Homeland Security. The meetings we had were extremely productive. Everyone we sat down with was candid, forthcoming and overwhelmingly generous with lessons learned. We came out of those discussions aspiring to achieve the type of coordination among our federal agencies we saw at work in the U.K. And to duplicate U.K. systems -- particularly in the areas of incident communications and crisis management.
From those first informal meetings evolved a more official working relationship – a U.S. –U.K. Joint Contact Group on Homeland Security that has been the driving force behind the security accomplishments we’ve achieved together. From the first meeting of the JCG in June of 2003 to our fourth and most recent meeting this past December, a synergy between our respective homeland security efforts has evolved.
On a broad range of topics, this true working group has fostered daily coordination between our homeland security offices and our embassies – yielding thousands of informal contacts that form the backbone of our partnership.
The JCG has allowed us to share information and best practices. It has allowed us to learn from one another, such as the cooperation between our Urban Search and Rescue team and the U.K. New Dimension Program. It has provided the opportunity to develop programs and technologies that work together, such as the integration of our Homeland Security Information Network – a key information-sharing tool.
It has enabled us to work together within other global organizations to foster international standards covering issues from shipping to biometrics. And, it has also led to a signed agreement between our two governments to mutually pursue science and technology applications for the protection of our critical infrastructures.
In the span of several years, we have witnessed firsthand the progress that can be gained when we bring the full force or our collective strength to bear on the challenges at hand. And yet, we cannot now grow complacent and become satisfied with what we have already accomplished. There is still much that we can and must do to ensure the security of our citizens.
We must continue to chart our way forward – and the way forward is honestly more of the same.
Relationships have to get stronger. Information sharing must become more swift and transparent. Public communication must be improved. Emergency response protocols must be honed. And the latest science and most advanced technologies must continue to be sought out and utilized.
To that end, common international standards of biometrics must be developed…the sooner the better. Biometrics is a tremendous technological tool that can not only accurately identify and cross-check travelers – and potential terrorists – before they enter our countries, but also provide increased travel document security and important identity protections.
In America, we have already seen through our US-VISIT program that biometric information can provide an added layer of security, while at the same time bring travelers across our borders with greater ease and convenience. Since the beginning of the year, US-VISIT has processed more than 17 million legitimate passengers. And since the program began more than 370 criminals and immigration violators have been stopped at our borders.
More recently, we’ve established a registered traveler program that provides travelers an opportunity to provide biometric information voluntarily that can be used to perform a security check against law enforcement and terrorist watch lists. A fingerprint or iris scan is all that is then needed for quick passenger identification and expedited processing through security. I’ve enrolled in the program myself, and I can tell you it is a great tool that helps move low-risk travelers more efficiently so that security resources can be focused elsewhere, where the need is greater. The program has proven widely popular and successful in the United States and just yesterday we launched the first international pilot at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.
In spite of these initial successes with biometrics, we must mutually produce a set of international standards for capturing, analyzing, storing, reading, sharing and protecting this sensitive information in order to ensure maximum interoperability between systems…and maximum privacy for our citizens.
Moving forward we must also remain aware of other agendas beyond homeland security that need to be addressed in this ongoing conflict. Dismantling the terrorist threat is not possible unless we make the necessary investments to root out and stop terrorism at the source. And through the seizure of terrorist assets, disruption of cells, a continuation of the arrests in which the European community has been so active, and the sacrifices of brave soldiers who are liberating the oppressed and transforming terrorist havens with the seeds of democracy…together we are making significant inroads, together we are getting it done.
In addition, as we were reminded in a meeting this past September with U.K. officials understanding terrorist enemies is the key to their defeat. We must come to know how do terrorist groups form and operate? How do they grow and sustain themselves? These are important questions and that’s why early this week we allocated $12 million to one of our universities to study the behavioral and social aspects of terrorism.
If we do not address the cause that fuels this barbaric and merciless movement, then we can not stop the cycle of young boys and girls who are at this moment being indoctrinated in hate and manipulated into acts of terror. The way ahead holds immense undertakings, yet paved with limitless opportunity we can see our way to a boundless future of security and peace – but only if we do so together.
In the end, the struggle against terror is not a test of military strength, but a test of will – a test of fortitude. The terrorists have no plans to surrender their arms in the near future. On the contrary, this will be a long, hard fight. A fight that will test the strength of our nations, the strength of our alliances, and the strength of our citizens.
But we have faced hard fights before, from the shores of Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the long winter of the Cold War. As allies we have continued to push forward and hold fast to our mutual belief in the power of freedom and democracy.
Someone with whom I’m sure you are all familiar once uttered this profound reflection on what it is that traces and sustains the trajectory of our times. Neither a politician nor a philosopher, but the economist John Maynard Keynes described it this way, “Ideas shape the course of history.”
And throughout history, the great ideas of one age do not always survive the new. In just the past century, we have witnessed the rise of subversive ideas…Nazism, fascism, communism – and we have also lived to see their defeat. A defeat won by those who clung to a different idea – an idea that has weathered the storms, endured through centuries and thrives today. An idea that brings hope to the oppressed, light to the dark places of the world and comfort to all who live under its watch.
Freedom is a conquering ideal. It is the idea that shapes our history, the cause that strengthens our resolve, the place from where we start.
So as we press onward – our course stretches out ever clear before us, our touch point ever fixed – towards the hope of a future of prosperity, security and peace that is closer than we think. Until that day dawns, we will not rest, we will not waiver, we will not relent in the fight against international terrorism, and by working together across all nations that share a love for liberty – we will triumph.