An American Perspective on National Security in a Borderless World

J. Thomas Schieffer
U.S. Ambassador to Australia
Sydney, Australia

March 23, 2004

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that politics and diplomacy are stories without end, requiring constant attention, keen thinking, and an appreciation of complexity. Terrorism is the bane of our time. It has transformed our politics as well as our diplomacy and its consequences will be with us for decades to come. Like politics and diplomacy it will require constant attention, keen thinking and an appreciation for its complexity.

Time was when national security meant what we were doing beyond our borders. National security issues were synonymous with our foreign policy. Now, national security encompasses what we do at home as well as what we do abroad. The cop on the beat in our hometowns around the world is just as important to our respective national securities as the soldier on patrol in a faraway land.

Terrorists are transnational in character. They wear no uniform and fight for no national flag.They move among the strong as well as the weak. They have no particular ideology and no particular set of demands. Their philosophy is simple. They believe they have the right to take innocent lives to further their cause no matter how fractured or transient that cause may be. They and they alone claim the right to make war or peace, to let some live while others must die.

Were the terrorists to succeed, our world would be plunged into a new Dark Age. The values we hold dear - the values of free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, equality of the sexes, tolerance and democracy would become extinct. To prevent the success of terrorists, to meet their threat, those of us who believe in those values must forge a united front and act as one.

A little over a year ago President Bush outlined our thinking in his National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. In it, he said, the United States was prepared to do four things:

  1. Defeat terrorist organizations of global reach by attacking their sanctuaries, leadership, finances, command, control, and communications;

  2. Deny further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by cooperating with other states to take action against these international threats;

  3. Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit by enlisting the international community to focus its efforts and resources on the areas most at risk; and,

  4. Defend the United States, its citizens and interests at home and abroad.

The most daunting task we faced in the aftermath of September 11 was that of conceptualizing and creating a whole new system to protect our citizens from terrorist attacks. You have heard the stories about what went wrong. Fire department radios could not transmit to police department radios. Some firefighters rushing in from other cities and neighborhoods were unable to assist because the couplings that attach hoses to hydrants simply would not fit. Information that could have led to the apprehension of some September 11 hijackers was not shared among agencies. We knew instantly that we had to change.

But we also realized that it was not simply a matter of changing radio frequencies or connecting computer systems; it required a whole new philosophy of how to secure our country, a new approach emphasizing shared responsibility and leadership, from the national level to the neighborhood community center. Our federal government knew it had the responsibility to lead, but it also knew that every level of government would have to be involved for success to be achieved. We also knew that we would need the help of international partners.

The Department of Homeland Security, or "DHS" as it quickly became known, officially opened for business a year ago this month. In the words of Secretary Tom Ridge, the amalgamation of 180,000 people and 22 agencies amounted to "a full-scale government divestiture, merger, acquisition and startup, all at once - undoubtedly, the biggest 'change management' challenge of all time."

DHS has accomplished a great deal in a short period of time. DHS now patrols 95,000 miles of shoreline and navigable waters and 7,500 miles of land borders with Canada and Mexico. Every year, more than 500 million people, 130 million motor vehicles, 2.5 million railcars, and more than 11 million containers are processed at our borders.

To monitor these mammoth flows and provide for our security, DHS unified our border inspection process to accelerate the free flow of goods and people in an effort to keep terrorists and criminals from entering our country.

In eight short months, the Department created a new entry-exit program, called the US-VISIT system, which enhanced the nation's security while facilitating legitimate travel and trade through our borders. Since January 5 of this year, the biometric capability of US-VISIT has identified 107 individuals who were wanted for crimes in the U.S. or previously deported, and would not have been caught any other way.

DHS and other agencies took immediate and extensive measures to enhance aviation security. In less than a year, we deployed newly trained screeners, thousands of federal air marshals and state-of-the-art technologies, which, from the curb to the cockpit, have made airline travel safer.

DHS created a new system in place to ensure that foreign students are not delayed upon entry, but that those posing as students, seeking entry to fraudulent schools, are stopped in their tracks. Last fall almost 300,000 students were successfully cleared for study at our institutions of higher education. Two hundred who attempted entry, but were not registered at any school, were sent home.

In less than a year, DHS significantly expanded the nation's container security initiative to 17 major international ports of trade, working alongside our allies to inspect and secure the nearly 20,000 containers of cargo that arrive at our shores every day.

DHS created a powerful and constant two-way flow of information between the federal government, states, and local governments with a standard Homeland Security Advisory system. DHS has also allocated or awarded a record $8 billion to states, regions and cities to help train and equip our nation's dedicated first responders.

The Department established a new capability to analyze threat information and match it with potential targets. Our aim is to protect key infrastructure. This is by necessity a partnership between government and the private sector, since 85 percent of our critical infrastructure is owned privately.

DHS improved the nation's protections against bio-terrorism by deploying environmental sensors to major cities across the nation. These sensors can help quickly detect airborne pathogens, such as anthrax, in time to distribute life-saving pharmaceuticals.

DHS's goal in 2004 is to work with the private sector in even greater cooperation to insure that our vital assets are further protected.

We want to maximize real-time sharing of terrorist threat information.

By the end of 2004, there will be a fully integrated watch list database in the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which will provide immediate updates to federal border-screening and law-enforcement systems. The Department of Homeland Security, working in tandem with state and local officials, will use these systems to identify suspected terrorists trying to enter or operate within the United States.

Once adopted at the state and local level, first responders will have a means to communicate with each other during a crisis, regardless of frequency or mode of communication. Over the course of the year, we will also issue new standards for major pieces of compatible equipment - such as basic protective gear and clothing.

DHS plans to continue to enhance its integrated border and port security systems by installing US-VISIT at our 50 busiest land ports of entry, and expanding the Container Security Initiative to 14 additional high-volume ports. Once implemented this year, nearly 80 percent of all cargo containers headed for the United States will be prescreened before they depart from abroad.

We want to examine in as many ways as possible communication, training, and coordination. We do not want people to meet for the first time at the scene of a tragedy. Everyone should be agreed in advance as to what the chain of command is and who is responsible for what. DHS will create a National Incident Management System to enable federal, state, local, and tribal governments and private-sector organizations to work together effectively to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from a terrorist attack or other major disaster.

We will continue to educate the public about the importance of being prepared for all emergencies, whether natural or man made. Current research suggests that between 20 to 30 percent of Americans have an emergency supply kit and that 15 percent have a communications plan. We hope those numbers can be raised to at least half by the end of 2004.

Since terrorists are adept at using technology, we need to make sure that our technological tools to combat terrorism are evolving, too. We are working with the private sector, national laboratories, universities and research centers to develop new capabilities for detecting the presence of nuclear materials in shipping containers and vehicles, and are developing the next generation of biological and chemical detectors.

Knowing how frequently Australians travel to the U.S., I am sure you will all appreciate that another key DHS priority will be to improve customer service and immigration practices. Adjusting to tighter security requirements has not been easy and we have not always performed as well as we could. We pledge to you, however, that we will get better. We want Australians and others from around the world to visit America. We love visitors and we want them to enjoy our country. We also want them to be safe on their visits.

With all that is happening on the home front, we are mindful that the main fields of battle in the war against terror are outside our borders. That is why we have mobilized the largest concerted international campaign since World War II to make sure that even if terrorists run, they cannot hide. The international community is fighting the global terrorist threat on five different fronts: diplomatic, financial, intelligence, law enforcement, and military. All of these fronts are important, but none more so than diplomacy. A robust diplomatic policy promotes counter-terrorism cooperation with friendly nations, enhances the capabilities of our allies, and takes the war on terrorism to the terrorists by drying up resources they depend upon to survive.

A major part of our diplomatic activity must be dedicated to the financial war on terrorism. Secretary of State Powell has designated 36 entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, thus freezing their assets, blocking travel by their members and supporters, and criminalizing material support for them. He has also designated entities and individuals under Presidential Executive Order 13224 as terrorist in nature thus freezing their assets and banning U.S. citizens from having any transactions with them. There are now some 350 names covered under that Executive Order, and more persons and groups are added frequently. Secretary Powell has also identified 48 groups under the Terrorist Exclusion List, keeping their members and supporters from entering the United States. Both directly and through our embassies, we are working with governments around the world to attack the mechanisms by which terrorists raise, move, and use money.

We also stand ready to help other countries improve their ability to counter terrorism financing. For example, last year a U.S. government team successfully assisted the Government of the Philippines with enacting financial controls vital to denying terrorists access to funding and in so doing brought the Philippines into compliance with international anti-money laundering and terrorist financing standards.

While diplomacy is our weapon of first choice, fighting terrorism militarily is also a vital part of the larger global effort. Two years ago, in response to the al-Qaida attacks of September 11, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in Afghanistan. It was the largest military coalition ever assembled, involving 90 nations, nearly half the countries of the world. The bulk of Afghan territory was liberated from Taliban control in a matter of weeks, and the Afghan people are now free from the Taliban's oppression. While the job in Afghanistan is far from over it remains a success in progress.

Iraq is now front and center in the war on terrorism. It is undeniable that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, sponsored terrorist groups, paid families of suicide bombers in Israel, and inflicted terror on the Iraqi people. Today, Iraq is no longer a state sponsor for terrorism. We have caught or killed 45 of the 55 former Iraqi leaders who were pictured on that famous deck of cards. The largest security force in Iraq today is all Iraqi. In less than a year we have trained and deployed over 200,000 Iraqis to try and bring stability to their troubled land. We are committed to expanding international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq and are working closely with Iraqi leaders as they draft a constitution, establish institutions of a civil society, and move toward free elections. The remnants of Saddam's forces and foreign terrorists are trying to undermine Iraq's progress and to throw the country into chaos. But they will not succeed. The United States will stay the course because we believe that a democratic, prosperous Iraq can have a transforming effect not only on the Middle East but across the world.

The expansion of intelligence sharing and cooperation among nations since September 11 has prevented attacks, saved lives, and exposed the hiding places of terrorists. An impressive global dragnet has tightened around al-Qaida. Entire cells have been wrapped up in nations such as Singapore, Italy, and the United States. More than 3,400 al-Qaida operatives or associates have been detained in over 100 countries, largely as a result of cooperation among law enforcement agencies. Information gained from captured enemy combatants and imprisoned terrorists has been used effectively around the world. The arrest last year of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the third ranking al-Qaida official, and Hambali, dealt major blows to al-Qaida's operational capabilities, and an intelligence windfall for our law enforcement officers. But we cannot rest, because as the tragic bombings in Madrid demonstrate, our enemies are not at rest. They continue to stalk the innocent for a hodgepodge of reasons. They are happy to kill us in our homes, our airports, our train stations and any place else we may gather for work or fun.

The United States Department of State and the Department of Justice are ready, willing, and able to assist foreign law enforcement agencies in their efforts to deter terrorism through training in areas such as hostage negotiation, bomb detection, airport security, border security, criminal prosecutions, and anti-corruption efforts. The first training course of the newly created Southeast Asian Regional Center for Counterterrorism in Kuala Lumpur was sponsored by the State Department in August. Anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance experts from Australia and other countries conducted a gBasic Analysis and Suspicious Transaction Reportingh course for 80 participants form 15 Southeast and South Asian countries. This course was aimed at developing financial intelligence analysts' ability to detect money laundering and terrorist financing activities.

In recent years, the State Department's Antiterrorism Assistance program has developed new courses for countering terrorism financing, defeating cyber-terrorism, and strengthening counterterrorism legislation. In the past year, we scheduled 180 courses for 56 countries.

Nowhere has the cooperation between two countries been greater than right here in Australia. Both the United States and Australia recognize that cooperation on counterterrorism is one of the most important things we do in our bilateral relationship. We realize our longstanding security, diplomatic, and intelligence relationships, as well as our joint responses to international terrorist attacks around the world, make us uniquely qualified to work together in defeating the scourge of our time.

Over the last few years we have worked together to create joint immigration lookout systems to prevent terrorists from entering or leaving either of our countries.

We have coordinated assistance to the Indonesian National Police to enhance their counterterrorism capabilities and their investigations of the Bali and Jakarta bombings;

We have coordinated assistance to the Pacific Islands Forum countries to strengthen their counterterrorism legislation;

And we have held bilateral counterterrorism consultations between the State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism and the Australian Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism.

In addition, the U.S. Technical Support Working Group, which coordinates the transition of counterterrorism technology from development stages into useable products, has invited Australia to be one of a small group of international partners.

We have found over and over that being good partners makes good sense.

Finally, let me end with one other thought. Our ultimate failure or success against terrorism will not depend solely upon the force of our arms or the effectiveness of our diplomacy. What is at stake here are our values and those values will ultimately give us the strength to persevere in a deeply troubled time. I began my remarks by quoting Eleanor Roosevelt; I end them by quoting her husband. In his last State of the Union message before the United States was plunged into the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt said the United States strived for a world that would guarantee mankind Four Freedoms - the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear. Those freedoms are still at issue around the world. What we do matters to their outcome. We must resolve as generations before us resolved to do our part, to do our duty. We cannot be embarrassed to be a force for good in the world. We cannot be afraid to stand for what we believe in. In the past the United States and Australia have made a difference in the world. In the future, they will do so again. Ours must be a message of hope not hate, a message of freedom not servitude, a message of tolerance not bigotry. If we believe in that message, not just to preach but to practice, we will defeat this latest scourge of terrorism just as we defeated the fascism, militarism and communism that preceded it.