Release Date: March 2, 2011
MR. DEGIOIA: Good morning. I wish to welcome all of you to Georgetown University for this morning's event, the Department of Homeland Security, Year Eight. We have a proud tradition here at Georgetown of welcoming national and global leaders to Gaston Hall, a home for public discourse for more than a century, and we continue that tradition today with a visit of our first three secretaries of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary Michael Chertoff, and Secretary Tom Ridge. And it's an honor for us to have all of you with us today.
We're also grateful to be joined today by members of Congress, and I wish to thank the Aspen Institute and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service for bringing us all together today. In particular, I'm grateful to Walter Isaacson, the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. I'm grateful for his friendship and for the spirit of collaboration that brings us together today.
It's an honor to be able to welcome the members of the Aspen Institute community here to Georgetown, as well as colleagues from the Department of Homeland Security, and to express our appreciation for their support in organizing our program. I'd also like to thank our students of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund for helping to staff this important event. And finally, I wish to welcome Andrea Mitchell, NBC news chief, foreign affairs correspondent and the moderator of today's conversation. And I want to thank you all for joining us.
This event gives us an opportunity to reflect on the changes in our world since September 11th, 2001 and the ways in which the United States government has responded to these changes. Later this year, we will observe the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In response to these attacks, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, to be led by the Secretary, a member of the President's cabinet. The creation of the Department united 22 agencies from across the executive branch, making it the largest reorganization of the federal government since President Harry Truman consolidated the Armed Forces into the Department of Defense.
Last month, in her State of America's Homeland Security address, Secretary Napolitano said, "Real security requires the engagement of our entire society with government, law enforcement, the private sector, and the public, all playing their respective roles." The Department of Homeland Security was created to serve as the catalyst and the integrator of the nation's efforts to promote our general welfare.
Our universities recognize the role that we play in this effort, whether in fostering public discourse through events like today's program, or by engaging in the kind of scholarship and research that can support the effort of our nation or by educating the leaders of tomorrow, who will contribute to these efforts. It's in that spirit that we come together today.
It's now my pleasure to introduce our moderator for today's program, Andrea Mitchell, who will begin our program. Andrea is NBC's news chief, foreign affairs correspondent, and host of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports. She currently covers foreign policy, intelligence, and national security issues for all of the NBC news programs, with a long and distinguished career as a correspondent here in Washington. It's my honor to welcome Andrea Mitchell.
MS. MITCHELL: Thank you all very much. Thank you, President DeGioia. Thank you, Georgetown University, the School of Foreign Service, and this beautiful campus, this historic building, welcoming us all, and of course, the co-sponsors, the Aspen Institute Homeland Security program.
So thanks to both for bringing us all together here today. I wanted to acknowledge them, and, of course, Walter Isaacson, the head, the president of the Aspen Institute, who has been so key to all of this. And we have some key members of Congress here, Senator Mary Landrieu of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of Appropriations, and also David Price, the ranking member of Homeland Security, and Peter King, of course, the chairman of Homeland Security.
Welcome all and other members of Congress. John Pistole, the head of the TSA, is here in the audience. Congressman King, Chairman King, thank you all for coming.
Let me know if I've missed anyone, but I wanted to get immediately to our three secretaries. I'm not sure whether all three of you have been together on a platform before in testimony or another venue, but it's great to see you here today.
I was very struck by the fact that Secretary Napolitano, who obviously is the third Secretary of Homeland Security, and as a former governor of Arizona, has seen the challenges at every level of her national service. In her second term, of course, she became the third Secretary of Homeland Security, was a leader as governor on homeland security issues, was the first woman to chair the National Governors Association, and the first female Attorney General of Arizona.
Michael Chertoff was the second Secretary of Homeland Security, also previously was Assistant Attorney General for the criminal division at the Department of Justice, and, of course, was a judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before becoming Secretary of Homeland Security; and Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, the first Secretary of Homeland Security, who became the first director of the office a month after 9/11, so perhaps, had the most challenging job of all, elected to Congress back in 1982, and overwhelmingly reelected five times, twice governor of Pennsylvania, and also the first congressman to have been an enlisted man in the Vietnam War, and has been awarded the Bronze star, among other commendations.
But I was very struck, as I say, Secretary Napolitano, that you looked at your former colleagues, your predecessors, and you looked at how relaxed they appeared while they were sharing coffee, and a few comments. And you said this is a relief because there is a future after being Secretary of Homeland Security.
The first question to you is, what keeps you up at night? What is the greatest fear that we face as a nation and that you face in your job? Is it Awlaki? Is it Bin Laden? Is it the fact that 28 people were killed last weekend alone along the Mexican border, on the long range of that Mexican border, as part of the ongoing drug war, which some say is really the most frightening of the challenges facing the homeland right now?
So what is it that really faces you? And I just want to acknowledge, of course, the outgoing long-time Homeland Security specialist, Congresswoman Jane Harman, who has joined us and is sitting next to Walter.
Secretary Napolitano, the greatest threat facing our borders?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I am interested to hear from Tom and Michael, but I think I could say all of the above because all of them touch upon key roles of the Department of Homeland Security. Awlaki, for example, one of the key espousers or inspirers, if I can use that word, of terrorist activity in the English-speaking world.
Bin Laden, still at large, and while core Al-Qaeda has been constrained to a large degree, in terms of its geography, it still, itself, has served as a core, and there are now many other Al-Qaeda-related or type organizations around the world that seek to harm the West and seek to harm the United States. And the border with Mexico is something that we focus on quite a bit. It's a scenario where we are assisting President Calderon in his very valiant war against these large and powerful drug cartels that exist over the bridge from El Paso, over the road from Laredo, across, basically, a huge gully in Nogales.
So that's a key struggle for us or a key issue that we have. So I think part of what makes homeland security such a complex and challenging position is that it's almost easier to say what you don't worry about than what you need to be worried about at any given time.
MS. MITCHELL: Secretary Chertoff, how has it changed since your tenure, in terms of, perhaps, international cooperation, and the focus on cargo, and some of the other more recent threats that we saw?
MR. CHERTOFF: I would say that what Janet has said pretty much approximates the kinds of things that we were concerned about when I was Secretary, going back a couple of years. I think there has been some evolution. Four or five years ago, I would have said core Al-Qaeda in Pakistan was the area of greatest threat. Now, we have Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; that's Awlaki in Yemen. We have Al-Qaeda in Maghreb that's becoming an increasing problem. So we're beginning to see these issues spread out more.
I also think if you look at what's going on in Mexico, that is becoming more and more troubling, partly, frankly, as a consequence of President Calderon having been, I would say, heroic in pursuing the drug cartels, but they are pushing back.
So what we're seeing is a much more widely-distributed threat than might have been the case four or five years ago. And then maybe the most notable is homegrown terrorism. As we succeeded with the help of our international partners in making it more difficult for people to come into the United States to carry out operations, what we've seen now is a greater emphasis on recruiting Americans or residents in the U.S. to become operatives, and I think that is challenging the model that we use for security.
MS. MITCHELL: Secretary Ridge, the Homeland Security Department was created eight years ago today, which is, really, the preceptor for us getting together today. Do you think that this combination, this hybrid creation, has been an effective tool?
A lot of people have complained about the intelligence reorganization, and that, in fact, by layering, we have created more stovetops, not fewer, and that the real mandate of the 9/11 Commission has not worked. But in the case of Homeland Security, despite all the complaints, looking back, do you think that this has come together into a coherent agency?
MR. RIDGE: I think we have to go back and take a snapshot of what the government looked like right after 9/11. And, clearly, both the executive branch and Congress were struggling with what's the best way to recalibrate and reconstitute some very capable people and organizations, but to create a border-centric agency. And the challenge around that was that there were a lot of discussions as to what, Andrea, was appropriate to put in the agency.
And since that time, the one agency, the one component that people still have some difficulty with is FEMA, though I'm a strong believer that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is exactly where it belongs. Some of the challenges associated, I believe, have had more to do with leadership than the organization itself.
So I think the configuration of those entities within the Department was very appropriate. But one of the things we discussed before we came out on the stage is how everything is evolving from that space. I remember they reorganized the Department of Defense after World War II. We were building this new agency at the same time we were trying to build the defensive mechanisms to make America more secure.
And so I started; Mike followed. Secretary Napolitano's still trying to do all the business-line integration, the IT, the personnel, the budgeting. I mean, they're still trying to make it a more efficient organization internally. If you can be more efficient internally, you can be more effective externally.
So that's an ongoing process; you play defense. And I guess the lingering challenge that the agency still has -- and we all probably may have different opinions as to what the real risk is today, although that has evolved as well, as Michael pointed out. I mean, remember the profile of the terrorist as we knew it right after 9/11, males from the Arabian Peninsula, 18 to 35.
That's really changed, and we understand that. But the biggest challenge I think the agency still has, and I remind everybody every chance I get, the agency, to your point, Andrea, is a consumer of information. It doesn't generate intelligence.
All three of us have said, everybody has a role to play in homeland security, everybody, all 307 million citizens. But the agency can only act based on the information it is given. And I still think, eight years later, one of the big challenges is making sure that the Department of Homeland Security has enough information so that it can share with our partners, either in the private sector, or states, and local governments. I still think, from my perspective, that's still a bit of a challenge.
MS. MITCHELL: How much is it luck, Secretary Napolitano, and how much is it skill and government intelligence-gathering? Because we have not had an attack since 9/11, yet the Christmas Day bomber in 2009 basically was passengers being alert. Faisal Shahzad, in Times Square, was a vendor, a street vendor. The cargo being intercepted, in terms of the printers, had to do with Saudi intelligence tipping us off.
I guess the most recent example in Texas might be the best example of Homeland working the way it was intended, with a shipper notifying local officials in Lubbock. Let me ask you to elaborate on that.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I think what I have concluded is that the notion that intelligence is simply kind of linear and that you simply connect the dots is not accurate. What happens now is there are lots and lots and lots of information, a cloud so to speak.
And you have to be able to discern patterns in that cloud and to identify threats. You have to have multiple layers, and multiple layers of our society who recognize a threat and pass it on.
So you have -- on the Christmas Day bomber, it was the passengers who obviously took Abdulmutallab down. And we have done, now, a number of things in response to that to tighten up on airline security, and we're still doing a lot, and that area remains a key concern.
When you talk about Faisal Shahzad, what a great example of citizen involvement. A street vendor sees smoke coming from a vehicle he doesn't recognize as normally being by the place where he sells hot dogs or whatever, immediately notifies law enforcement, and we go from that notice in 53 hours to the apprehension of Shahzad.
Then with respect to the student in Texas, I don't want to comment too much because it's still a pending matter, but, again, an illustration of how, when citizens are involved, and when you have opened the doors and said this is not just a government responsibility, it's a joint responsibility to share information, to recognize threats, then we're starting to create that kind of Homeland Security architecture that Tom started, that Michael built on, and that we are furthering.
MS. MITCHELL: When we look at the threats, Michael Chertoff, and we all think about airplane threats, what about something that you seem to minimize, notably when you suggested that an airplane flight could kill 3,000 people if a bomb, as we know, went into the buildings? But a bomb in the subway may kill only 30 people. You have to start thinking about priorities, you suggested, and that created some controversy.
Have we ignored subways, tunnels, Amtrak because of the focus on air plane security?
MR. CHERTOFF: I would say two things. First, at a general level, this is about risk management. It is not about risk elimination. If you want somebody to tell you that the government or anybody's going to eliminate all the risk in life, then you're asking for someone to give you a fantasy. And you do have to prioritize. You're going to see this now with the budget. There's going to have to be judgments made about where you put the money.
So what you look at is you do look at potential impact and you recognize that a catastrophic impact, that could kill tens of thousands of people, gets more investment than something that would be tragic but might only kill 10 people. And I know it's not fashionable to make that distinction in numbers, but, realistically, as a policymaker, you have to look at that difference.
I would also say, though, that the architecture of the response is different. For example, I would say we have actually done quite a bit over the years in building security in the railway system. And we have these joint teams called VIPER teams, which we put out into the subways, we put out into the train stations. I know it's continued under Janet Napolitano, and it's not the same fixed architecture you see at the airport because you can't have magnetometers at every subway station, but it is risk management, using various kinds of tools, people, technology, even canines. So you've got to use different types of methods for different kinds of threats.
Now, one thing I just want to add, to follow up on the point that Janet made earlier, is about layered defense. And I think Tom originally talked about layered defense, and we've all talked about it. And what that means is that there is no magic solution to homeland security. It's not going to be perfectly addressed by intelligence. It's not going to be perfectly addressed by technology.
You have to build a system that has multiple layers, so that if one fails, another one can pick up the job. And you also have to recognize that human error is a part of a system, and that's why multiple-layered defense allows you to overcome human error. So this is a process in a system. It is not a single solution.
MS. MITCHELL: Following up on that, when you talk about layers, Secretary Ridge, we had Richard Reid, so we take off our shoes. Then we have the liquids, so now, we can't carry our shampoo bottles. It seems as though we keep building layers. When do we reach a point where we, first of all, are not keeping one step ahead of the terrorists? But, secondly, should there be an attempt to look at previous threats and perhaps figure out that we don't need all of the things that are now built into the system?
MR. RIDGE: First of all, I think that now that I'm flying quite a bit, number one, I do and have been -- pardon me?
MS. MITCHELL: Tell us what it feels like. What does it feel like to be just one of us again?
MR. RIDGE: I get a chance to see some great people working at TSA. With the new machines, I must tell you, that come out, I saw one poor TSA official absolutely getting lambasted by a very, very, very unhappy commercial passenger. And he was very cool, calm, and collected, and he took all the grief coming his way.
And I went over to him and I said that was a great lesson on patience and customer care. I said, "Do yourself a favor," and I say this respectfully to my friends in Congress, "the next time somebody says that, say write your Congressman. I'm just doing what I have been advised and instructed to do, based on directions from the Congress."
So, more seriously, one of the big challenges, I think, with commercial aviation is that ‑‑ and we've talked about this internally as well ‑‑ we're not quite to a risk-managed stage yet. I mean, I guess the question becomes, in our own mind, as a country, do we want to treat everyone as a potential terrorist forever and ever? And I think that goes to the heart of your question.
We have layered in multiple checks there. I do agree with my colleagues that you never want a single point of failure. The first point of failure would be if you don't have intelligence about the potential actor because that's, ideally, what Homeland Security's about. You want to get the actor before they act. But presuming that doesn't happen, then what do you do on commercial aviation?
Well, we're building these systems. I still think, down the road, hopefully with the support of Congress, they'll take up a more risk-managed approach. I've asked many, many audiences, and we've tried it, and it worked.
People prepared to give up their iris scans for identity, fingerprints, to match against the base, volunteer information so that in a risk-managed world, we can conclude you're probably not a terrorist. Now, there's no 100-percent guarantee. So I think, in time, this still has to evolve.
One final matter, and this really is an irritant, and perhaps it shouldn't be, but I think President Kennedy in '62 said we're going to the moon. We got to the moon in '69. That's seven years. It's 10 years after 9/11, and we still haven't figured out to get the right piece of technology at our airports. So, apparently, it's easier to go to the moon than come up with a piece of technology that could be a little bit less invasive and give John Pistole and TSA different sets of equipment to work with.
So I think we still have a lot of work to do there. I think Congress wants to move there, but that's one area where we haven't quite learned how to manage the risk, and I certainly hope, in the next couple of years, we do.
MS. MITCHELL: This opens up a number of questions, first to you, Secretary Napolitano, about the technology. What would be wrong with advancing on two fronts, biometrics and some sort of a staggered passenger list, as well as incorporating some of the techniques -- and I think you already are -- that the Israelis and others use in terms of profiling?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: We don't profile, but what we do do is we do use a lot of intelligence. That's intelligence about passengers before they even get to the airport. That's been part of a process that actually began under -- I think really, you, Michael, but we've really accelerated now. So there is INTEL about passengers as they come in.
Then within the airport itself, you'll see some uniformed officers. You'll see canines. You'll see some persons carrying explosive trace detection equipment or you'll come across them. You won't see others. You won't see, for example, behavior detection officers who do use some techniques to look at tactics. They're trained in tactics and techniques of someone who may be actually anticipating an attack.
So by the time you get to that checkpoint, there have already been four or five layers in advance of you. Now, the problem is, as Tom correctly notes, is we don't have the checkpoint of the future yet, an integrated checkpoint that would enable you to leave your shoes on, carry your water bottle, not have to unload your laptop from your briefcase or your backpack. And that technology just isn't there.
So we fund research, primarily at universities, to help us identify those technologies that would give us that ability, also, with our national labs. Now, some of that research is at issue, as we go through the budget process right now. Research and development overall, across the federal government, has been cut back dramatically in the House budget as it currently stands. So that's something that Congress will want to take a look at. This kind of research has direct capability.
I want to follow up on one point Mike said, though. One of the reasons we do all this in aviation is because there is a connect to current intelligence about the desire to attack aviation, either by getting an explosive on a cargo plane or on a passenger plane. And it doesn't really matter which is which, although I think our adversaries would prefer a passenger plane. But one of the reasons we do this is because it's a current threat.
With respect to subways and trains, we have that threat as well, not necessarily as obvious or as frequently articulated as the threat against aviation, but the President's budget includes monies for 12 more VIPER teams because they are very useful, with multiple different parts to them, but they are able to help us secure some of these surface transportation nodes that we have.
MS. MITCHELL: What about the TSA, Michael Chertoff? Administrator Pistole is sitting there and sort of nodding his head, but that is the face of homeland to so many people. We're talking about, first of all, unionization, I believe, of TSA, and that is one of the issues right now. Some of the cargo checks are subcontracted out. How would you now, as an expert but an outsider with the past experience, evaluate how TSA has --
MR. CHERTOFF: Like Tom, I now have the opportunity to travel quite a bit by air.
MS. MITCHELL: How's that working for you?
MR. CHERTOFF: It's actually worked fine for me. Part is because I actually plan ahead, and I kind of know what the rules are, and so I get myself organized to get through efficiently.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: That's a good traveler.
MR. CHERTOFF: But that said, I watch carefully to see what other people's experiences are. And I have to say, the vast majority of people I see go through the checkpoints do I think cooperate with the officers, and I think the officers really try to be helpful.
It's a very challenging job. I think the thing that is difficult for people to understand is you're talking about millions of people who go through the checkpoints. And it is an area where the government interfaces with the public maybe more than anything else, except tax time with IRS.
Clearly, everybody would like to have a technological solution. The challenge has always been throughput. If you, for example, want to have a machine that looks at liquids, if it takes 30 seconds per bottle, the line would be nine hours long. Another panacea I often hear talked about is, as Janet talked about a little bit, what the Israelis do. And we do have a system of behavioral detection, which works. But, remember, the Israelis have one airport. They have a handful of flights compared to what we have. It's just a different architecture.
So I'm quite sure that the current administration, just as ours, is very intent on developing a technology that will make this easier, as well as the other tools, but recognize that it is a triumph that we have not had a hijacking or a bomb go off in an airplane since September 11th in this country, and it is not for want of trying. And one of the things that John Pistole could tell you, as his predecessor could tell you, is you'd be amazed at the amount of things that are picked up at the checkpoints that could be components of bombs.
I remember there was one case a couple years ago where someone had wires in a big piece of cheese. It may sound funny, but, actually, that's how you test the system. You don't put the bomb on. You put something benign, but you look to see whether wires or metal can be smuggled through the system. So it is a very challenging environment, but they've been successful up to now.
MR. RIDGE: I just want to add one thing with regard to TSA, too. From time to time, a very enterprising journalist will try to tweak the system and then have some nightly news report.
MS. MITCHELL: No one here.
MR. RIDGE: Nobody covering this event today, I'm sure. But I want the public to be reassured that, number one, everybody understands that they're not perfect, but they go to work every day trying to do the best they can. But, believe me, TSA tests themselves on a regular basis. They're constantly probing their own defenses. And to the extent my colleague said, you build in a redundant layer of security, and they test it themselves all the time.
So, yes, there's some inconvenience associated with it. I mean, I've been pulled aside for secondary screening over two dozen times. Maybe there's some profile out there I don't understand, but that's just the way it goes. I get a chance to say hello to some of the good people doing the best things they can. They're doing the very best that they can. But they do test the system themselves, and I think you need to know that. They're not complacent. They're not sitting back, waiting for something to happen. They kind of red-cell themselves, and try to probe and test, and the things they discover, they apply later on, and you don't even know about it.
MS. MITCHELL: How much progress are we making with the European Union, Secretary Napolitano, on getting some sort of a uniform standard so that we know that these incoming flights have been vetted to our satisfaction?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Actually, the jargon is API/PNR, but what those initials stand for is the process by which we share in advance of people boarding flights, who they are or what have you, so those names could be run against a number of different databases that we have, so that we even know before somebody gets on a flight, or is allowed to get on a flight, what we're dealing with.
The European Union, which operates now under something called the Lisbon Treaty, which is new since both of you were secretary, is in negotiations with the United States on one EU-wide API/PNR agreement with the United States. And we're proceeding. Actually, this week begins I think now the third round of negotiations, and we are I think getting there to a common understanding of what a good agreement would require.
And, again, we need to do it in such a fashion that real-time information is exchanged. It's exchanged in a format that we can run, because, as Michael said, we're talking about millions of passengers a day. I mean, we are the busiest flight area in the world by a large margin. So we need it real-time, common format. But we also need to manage the data in such a fashion that concerns about privacy are addressed.
MS. MITCHELL: What does making progress mean, in terms of real time, getting an agreement?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: There is actually now an existing agreement. What we're doing now is renegotiating it to make it even better. And when we say real time, we mean by the time a passenger places an order for a ticket, information is exchanged.
MR. RIDGE: Can I just make a point here? It's very interesting to have the three of us on stage because this has been an evolutionary process, to the credit of it's not an R or D; you start with a foundation and you build on things.
When I was in the White House, and then the first couple months as Secretary, we began the discussions with the European Union. We wanted that advance passenger information. It took well over a year to get it, but we didn't get it until the plane was in the air.
But at least we got the information. You probably remember. Some of the students are probably too young to remember, but we turned a famous artist around by the name of Cat Stevens that day. And what you didn't know that same day, there were a couple other people we took off the plane and sent back to Europe. That was the first step.
Secretary Chertoff said, well, that's nice. We begin to develop that relationship, but he said, thanks for giving it to us after the plane is airborne, but why don't you give it to us before the plane is airborne so we don't have to land them in Bangor, Maine and send them back? So he successfully negotiated that and some other things with that. Now, Secretary Napolitano takes it to the next step.
So there are a lot of things that have evolved from that basic, let's cobble these things together and start working. I mean, the threat warning system, I knew was going to come up one of these days, which is very appropriate.
MS. MITCHELL: The color code.
MR. RIDGE: The color-coded system, that's 3.0. The first thing that happened was when then General Ashcroft and Bob Mueller and Tom Ridge would just have a press conference and say, the threat tomorrow is greater than it is today; be alert, be aware, and have a good day, and walk off the stage. Not terribly effective. The second was a threat warning system, the much-maligned five-color coded system that was designed.
In public communications, the three of us will tell you [it is] one of the most important that the Department can do. It was designed to tell the public that the President's Homeland Security council said the threat is greater. There was a consensus that had to be reached, but it was also designed to tell people specifically what you should do. That was 2.0. Secretary Napolitano, with her revision, has taken it to 3.0.
So all along the way, you see things that began five, six, seven, now eight years ago. Every Secretary, regardless of party, has tried to improve upon, build, and I think that's a credit to the men and women who work there because we're there for eight years, but everybody understands it's an evolutionary process, and I think it's been fairly positive.
MS. MITCHELL: Now, one thing that hasn't changed in eight years is that you still have projects across the country, rather than the focus of the money primarily being in the greatest threat areas. With all the talk about earmarks and pork barrel legislation, there still is a lot that is a lot that is distributed across congressional district.
I want to ask you about that because Janet Napolitano still has her budget at take stake. She's got three budget hearings.
MR. CHERTOFF: I have the luxury of not having to go and testify about budget. I actually have to say, I think over time, this became much improved, and there still remains urban legends about distributions of money that occurred in the first or second round that I don't think reflect the reality. As of the time I left, I think it's still true.
Most of the money in the President's budget now -- Congress sometimes changes, as you know -- was dedicated to the higher-risk areas. Certainly, New York got the most money. Los Angeles got a lot of money. We had tiers of cities, for example. And, generally speaking, we didn't actually get a lot of earmarking compared certainly to the kinds of things you see at the Department of Defense.
So I think that it has been, again, an evolutionary process to build a common-sense system for allocating the money in a way that is more or less reasonable. And I do have to be fair. Probably, the current Secretary can't say this. There are times that members of Congress have a different idea of what the risks are than the President's budget has, and so the Administration may never be 100 percent happy with what comes out, but I think it has improved over time.
MS. MITCHELL: Getting back to the issue of Al-Qaeda, is Al-Qaeda Central no longer the central threat, the chief threat that it was, because of whatever we've been able to accomplish through drones and other technologies? Are we now talking about Awlaki or other splinter groups? Especially as we see all of this revolutionary change in the region, are we now facing a greater challenge because we no longer have central governments' intelligence relationships that we've had for many years with Egypt and others, and now have to figure out what this new world is going to look like?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, I think one of the evolutions we have seen is in Al-Qaeda itself. And whereas 9/11 was a core Al-Qaeda activity, that was the genesis of the reason for the Department, that attack, core Al-Qaeda has been constrained by a number of the activities that have gone on, and largely confined to that area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, although, modern communications being what they are, things still come out of there that can be used to inspire, to institute, to let people know we're still here. The West is still the enemy, and that's where you should focus your attention.
But we now have AQAP, as Michael said, Al-Qaeda in Maghreb. You have Al Shabab in Somalia, another group. So you have these groups all over the world. And then the evolution I have seen really accelerate in my two years has been the so-called homegrowns, those U.S. persons who, for whatever reason ‑‑ and we don't have a good understanding about what causes someone to do this, but they become themselves inspired to commit Jihad. They may travel abroad to get training and then come back. But that's a key concern for us moving forward.
That's why it's so important that we have a security architecture that recognizes that everybody has a role. That's one of the reasons that we are taking national the See Something, Say Something campaign, to kind of get across to citizens at large that everybody has a place in our security. That's why we've really tried to work more closely with the private sector and what they are doing to protect security, because it's not as easy.
It's not just one group in one place using one methodology. It's many different groups dispersed, and some individuals, and small groups, even within our own country, using lots of different methodologies. So everything in this area evolves.
MR. CHERTOFF: If I could speak to the point about what's kind of going on in the Middle East, which, of course, is I think commanding a lot of attention. And when people say how do you feel about all the energy and activities there, I'm attempted to be reminded of Zhou Enlai's remark. When he was asked about the French Revolution, he said it's too soon to tell how it turns out.
Things are very much unfolding. On the positive side, for the first time, there's an alternative narrative for progress in the Middle East, that is in dramatic distinction from that drawn by Al-Qaeda. It's a narrative of democracy and freedom, and that's a very positive model. On the other hand, we don't know how it's going to play out because as regimes topple, there'll be a need to have a new government come in that is capable of delivering services to the people.
At some point, the garbage has to be picked up and jobs have to be created. And if those new governments are not capable of doing that, then the opportunities will arise from the military to come back in or perhaps to have extremists come in.
So this is an example of an area where the verdict is very much out, and there's a real cause for optimism, but also cause for careful watching and waiting. And this is going to have an impact, as Janet said, on our security architecture.
MS. MITCHELL: In fact, Secretary Ridge, what we're seeing in Libya, many say, is an evolution or devolution, which is going to be more like Somalia, a failed state, that there is no central core likely to replace Gaddafi should he be ousted from power..
MR. RIDGE: I think what we've seen over the Middle East is a repressive autocracy, no matter how they got there. Those days are numbered, probably globally, but because of the absence of any institutions of any civil society -- you take a look at Egypt and you say, what are the instruments of self-government that exist in Egypt today that they can build upon? There aren't any.
In Libya, there aren't any. And pretty much around the Middle East, it'll take a while. And nature abhors a vacuum, so it's politics. And one of the great concerns that I have, taking a look at that region right now is the growing influence of Iran. It is, by far, the number one terrorist provocateur in terms of financing, political support, arms, ammunitions, throughout the Middle East.
I mean, you take a look at the potential influence in Iran at two-thirds a share you've got to believe they're stirring the pot. You take a look at their support of Hezbollah and what has happened in Lebanon, the support with Syria, the Palestinian/Islamic Jihad. If you take a look in Egypt, the Islamic Brotherhood -- they all have those tentacles into Iran.
So my colleagues couldn't agree with me more, there's so much uncertainty, and while we want to think optimistically about what can happen, one of the obstacles I think to the outcome we would all like to see would be the growing impact and influence of Iran, and pretty clear that negotiating with them hasn't worked, and sanctions hasn't worked. And as our influence has diminished in the region and the Western world's influence has diminished in the region, there's a vacuum.
And they're beginning to fill it, and I think we ought to be really concerned about that because, while it may not result in direct attacks on the United States, clearly, unrest in the Middle East ‑‑ we worry about our ally, Israel, and just generally what will happen to the world's economy, generally, if some of these vacuums are filled by additional repressive leadership, and the impact that has I think has serious consequences for the United States.
We have to be mindful of that. It is a terrorist state. They're promoting terrorism within the region. If that spills over -- too difficult to discern at the present time, but I think Iran is a major, major problem over there and we've got to pay more attention to it.
MS. MITCHELL: Secretary Napolitano, let's talk about immigration for a moment. What is the nexus between illegal immigration and terrorism, if any?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, I think right now, the question often raised is if somebody can sneak across the border, what prevents a terrorist from getting across the border? And the United States, unique among nations, has these two huge land borders, and it is physically and fiscally impossible to have a border patrol agent just sitting every 100 yards or so along each of those borders.
So when you're talking about risk management, as Michael said, when you're talking about controlling our borders, and you're talking about terrorism, one of the things you have to have is intelligence. You have to be able to identify, before you even get to the borders of the United States, who may be transiting either through Mexico, or Canada, or through the air, trying to get into our country.
And then, with respect to our borders themselves, we need to understand that we are never going to be in a position to seal those borders. Too much legal traffic needs to be able to flow back and forth. They're our number one and two trading partners.
So what we have to do is have border management that has good, effective ports of entry, where somebody coming through, if they're trying to use somebody else's identity or something like that, that can be pinged in the system and immediately picked up, and then control, as much as possible, what goes on between those ports.
MS. MITCHELL: How good is the intelligence?
MR. CHERTOFF: I think the intelligence is good, but like any other intelligence, as Janet said earlier, it's not perfect. And the idea that there's a capability to pinpoint every single threat, even at the granular level, is not realistic. That's the kind of thing you see on television. That's why it's an issue of layers and it's an issue of having the intelligence about who comes in, but putting the assets on the border that give you a reasonable chance of intercepting and apprehending.
And the truth is it has worked. I mean, there has been over the last several years a drop in the number of people who come into the country illegally between the ports of entry. Some of that is attributable to the economy, but, frankly, some of it is attributable to enforcement.
I remember four or five years ago, I was out at Yuma sector in Arizona. You remember that; you were governor. And there were literally hundreds of thousands of people that would run across the border every day. And because the distance between the border and the town of Yuma was a very short distance, once they got into town, they would blend into the town and it would be difficult to apprehend them.
So we put up fencing, which some people don't like, but we put up fencing. We put up technology. We added border control, and that number dropped dramatically to literally a handful a day.
So you can, depending on where you are on the border, use a series of tools in order to minimize the flow. Is it going to be an absolute seal? No. But will it, again, manage the risk in conjunction with these other tools? Yes, it will.
MS. MITCHELL: Isn't it true that most illegal immigration really has to do with economic issues, people driven by jobs?
MR. CHERTOFF: Yes. No question. Most people who come across the border are not coming across to do harm to the U.S. They're coming across to work at jobs that either Americans don't want to work or the wage isn't attractive.
And that's why, in 2007, we spent a lot of time trying to do a comprehensive immigration reform, which came close I think to passing the Senate. It didn't quite make it, but in the end, it looked at putting a lot of border and enforcement resources in, but also coming up with a temporary worker program and dealing with the illegal migrants who are in the country already.
MR. RIDGE: I just want to add on, I do hope that sometime in the future, that we do end up looking at our immigration policy generally. It's great to talk about defense we do, enforcement we do. But at the end of the day, the demographics in the United States suggest that we will need additional labor going back and forth across the border in a lawful way, so a comprehensive approach.
Secretary Chertoff tried, and they came very, very close. And I know it's the third rail of contemporary politics right now, but at the end of the day, there are a couple things that I would suggest in this debate. Don't think that everybody that comes across the border wants to be an American citizen. I don't think we should be that arrogant. A lot of them would just love to come up here, work lawfully, and go back home. I think we need to understand that. I think we could use biometrics, as I think that part of your plan was a biometric.
So at some point in time, building a database that employers can lawfully use and be protected from any potential sanctions, strong enforcement, go after businesses who hire people outside that basic system, more enforcement, more technology, but at some point in time, I just hope that the Congress accepts the responsibility.
And I can say this because I was there for 12 years and voted for amnesty under Ronald Reagan. At some point in time, you've got to say to yourself, we're not sending 12 million people home. Now, let's get over it. We can identify them. We're not going to send them home, so let's just figure out a way to legitimize their status, create a new system. And I think that will add more to border security than any number of fences we can put across the southern border; my opinion.
MS. MITCHELL: As a two-term member and long-term member of Congress as well, and elected as a Republican, how do you persuade people like the governor of Arizona and other leading Republican voices to take another look at this?
MR. RIDGE: Again, two of us are governors. I have a certain amount of empathy for all governors who are trying to deal with this issue. I think that issue slowly fades from the portfolio of concerns by governors if the federal government has a holistic, comprehensive solution. I think it addresses many of the problems that the governors are trying to confront.
MR. CHERTOFF: In a funny way, the budget issue we're facing now may be an interesting impetus because it will constrain even on the ability to put increased investment on enforcement. And I think one thing that people are beginning to realize now is, which I think those of us who have had executive jobs have known, they are hard choices and you do have to make decisions that are not perfect in order to get done and alleviate situations.
It may be that as part of the spirit of dealing with some of the budget challenges we've faced, there will be a recognition that we're going to have to come up with a solution that takes account of both the need to do enforcement, but also to deal with the immigration system overall and to be comprehensive about it.
MS. MITCHELL: In fact, I'm going to bring, in a moment, as we bring the audience in to ask questions, some of our members of Congress here, because in this interaction, you can say, having left off as -- it's not going to be perfect. But if you're Janet Napolitano, and you make some sort of risk-benefit analysis, and decide what you can spend and what you can't spend, or if there's an appropriation that gets killed, and something gets across and something happens and there's another attack, she's going to be the one sitting and facing a congressional hearing.
MR. CHERTOFF: Yes.
MR. RIDGE: Yes.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Yes. Absolutely.
MR. CHERTOFF: Goes with the territory. It's in the job description.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: And I'm going to bring Michael and Tom and I'm going to explain risk management. But that's part of the responsibility that each of us has undertaken, is to lead this department, to help build this department, to bring it together. And I think each of us acknowledges the risk we take in accepting that position. And I think if you make a decision and it turns out badly -- in other words, something that you thought would not happen actually does -- and maybe nobody even made a mistake. It may be just one of these things that happens.
But I think, if you can demonstrate to the public, and the public through the Congress or the public at large, why you did what you did, and what the reasons for it were, I believe that the public itself has matured and is maturing in its recognition of what security is and what risks are. And so I would hope that you could have that kind of a dialogue. But, again, when you lead the Department of Homeland Security, you're sitting on the edge of your chair quite a bit of the time.
MS. MITCHELL: I wanted to just button this down with one other issue out there, risk or not. It's the role of the media. When you have stories hammering home every day during the Christmas travel season about the invasive technologies and interviewing people randomly at airports about their grievances, how do we balance what we do and either help or hurt? I mean, it's not our role to be a partner of yours, but there are times when we sit on information at the request of government agencies. Most recently, that happened in Pakistan, with the incident in Pakistan, involving all of us.
What is the appropriate, healthy, adversarial relationship that also does not get in the way of national security?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, I think this is a daily struggle because the media's there to cover news, and oftentimes you are in possession of information the media doesn't have and you cannot share. And that means you cannot share it with the public, and that's one of the parts of the job. One of the frustrating things about the media, however, present company excluded, is --
MS. MITCHELL: You can include me.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: No. But it's the need to cover something 24/7. And that means the easiest thing to cover is conflict. And so there's a constant drumbeat to kind of pick a fight or say, well, that person said this; how do you respond to that, that sort of dynamic, as opposed to, from our standpoint, the key function of the media is to help us get information out to people, particularly when something has happened and people have been injured or killed. What happened? Why? What's the risk to them? What do they need to know? Or if there's something about to happen, this is particularly true, for example, in the FEMA situation where we have those responsibilities.
So every morning, as part of my daily brief, I get the upcoming weather. I never paid so much attention to the weather as I do as Secretary of Homeland Security, and you have to because you have to be alert to areas of the country that may be subject -- right now, we just finished some major winter storms.
We're looking at flooding in the Red River area. There are forest fires going on in Texas. And you have to know all those things, so you make sure that we are reaching out to governors, mayors, to local emergency ops centers, and so forth, and they have all the resources they need to deal with that. And the media can be a great partner when you're trying to get information to people. And so that's not how media sees itself, but in the kinds of things we deal with, it's how we would like the media to be.
MS. MITCHELL: With that, I'd like to bring the audience in. First of all, I also acknowledge the help of the Homeland Security forum, William Lurie, and also, Ed Cash, who helped bring all of this together, our thanks to you as well, of course, to Aspen and to Georgetown.
In the audience, as I say, we have a wealth of knowledge here, particularly, first of all and foremost, from members of Congress. We have microphones and I think also hand mics. So we have Senator Landrieu here and Congressman King, Congressman Price, Congresswoman Harman.
Senator Landrieu, do you have a question?
SENATOR LANDRIEU: It would be a great segue, based on the last part of the conversation or exchange to ask my questions, so I'll take this opportunity, and I thank all of you for being here and being so forthcoming in your thoughts and comments.
Six and a half years ago, 1,800 people were killed in a catastrophic infrastructure failing when the federal levee system in New Orleans that holds that water around a great city virtually collapsed. And not much has been talked about this morning about an important part of the Department, which is FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
So I would like to ask the Secretary now serving, what are your thoughts about how FEMA has improved? And then I'd really like to ask Secretary Chertoff what you found when you were there, what were you happy about that improved, and is it something that the country needs to continue to focus on?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Good point.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I think, Senator, FEMA now is -- they're doing great work. And they are doing what I've asked them to do, which is to lean forward, to anticipate, to be proactive, to pre-position food and cots and things of that sort if we see something coming. If we have to pay a little more to bring stuff back, that's easier than having to move material when you're in the middle of a storm or a hurricane or what have you.
We did that most recently. There was a major storm that came out and ultimately covered 100 million Americans, covered by this one storm, all during Super Bowl weekend. You might recall it. We were afraid that that storm, because of the way it was created, was going to create a lot of ice. And when you have a lot of ice, it means you lose a lot of power, and that we would have major power outages in major cities across the United States.
So we pre-positioned a lot of things. And FEMA now is in that mode, and they've also expanded their use of what I'll call social media to get information to people, to text. The FEMA administrator twitters, to keep information flowing to people because one of the things we've learned in managing crises is that what people thirst for is information and what they're supposed to do. So the more we can get out in information and what people are supposed to do, the better off we all are.
MR. CHERTOFF: I think that is all true. I think one of the great lessons of Hurricane Katrina was the importance of planning up front. And as a consequence of that, the whole attitude of FEMA and the Department in terms of planning and working with state and locals really shifted, and a lot of detailed planning was launched in the Gulf, but also in other areas as well, up in the New Madrid fault area and out in California, because that's really the touchstone for effective response. And when we faced Hurricane Gustave in 2008, we saw a lot of that action come into play, as a benefit.
Also to the issue of social media, that's a great tool for getting information. I remember we also set up -- and I hope they still have this system here ‑‑ an online, almost-version of eBay, where people who needed resources could be matched with people in the private sector who had resources in the way that we're now used to matching buyers and sellers on eBay.
So a lot of this stuff has been deployed to really bring FEMA to the 21st century. And we've had a couple of pretty light hurricane seasons in the last couple years. But I take your point that we should not be complacent about that because it could very easily be a nasty season next summer, not that I wish that on you. That's to be avoided, but you're quite right.
MS. MITCHELL: Congressman Price, and then Congressman King?
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: Let me reframe the question about the current threat environment slightly, in terms of the balance that you and your department must constantly strike between responding to the last crisis, learning from the last crisis, and anticipating the next one.
I'd like to ask the past secretaries how the current threat environment compares to what you were able realistically to project and anticipate. What has surprised you? What has followed the kind of projections that you were able to make? And, of course, I ask all of you to reflect on what we might anticipate next. To what extent do our current projections, you think, measure up to what we should look for, in terms of intelligent anticipation?
MR. RIDGE: People have asked me, do I miss being Secretary, and to a certain extent I say yes. I miss working with the people that I came to trust, and really respect, and admire because of their hard work, particularly those early months and couple years.
It was very intense, but an exciting time. You're around good people, it's not work. You enjoy doing what you're doing. There's a great cause associated with it. I miss not knowing, I mean, not that everything we read every morning, Michael or Janet, was something you'd want to run home and talk to the family and kids about, but you do miss not knowing. So I can't answer that question as specifically as the incumbent Secretary. But my sense is, from the relationships we've kept, the conversations we've had, and what I've led is that that threat has evolved into many different directions. And so I think the world now for the Department is a little bit more complicated than we initially thought it would be on September 12th, 2001.
You do have the emergence of another band of terrorists, al-Awlaki in Yemen, who is tied to the Fort Hood, who is tied to the Detroit bomber. You have now the homegrown terrorists. You have now the lone wolf that we saw down in Texas. So I think, frankly, the portfolio of threats, in my mind, is a lot broader than we thought it would be.
And, unfortunately, I don't see any narrowing of those threats as the Internet continues to be a very effective tool to proselytize, to educate, and to motivate. And so I think, frankly, whoever succeeds Secretary Napolitano is not going to see a narrowing of the threat. It may even get larger. So my sense is that the challenges are greater, not less, because in an eight-year trip, the threat has changed significantly.
MR. CHERTOFF: I would agree with that. I think what's happened is it's now gotten much more widely distributed, and particularly the issue of homegrown terrorism, with people who don't fit the popular image of what a terrorist looks like -- I mean Jihad Jane, Colleen LaRose, for example, or Daniel Maldonado. I mean, these do not fit the stereotype, and I think that puts a lot more pressure on state and local governments, and on, and as Janet said, ordinary citizens to help provide information.
The one other area I think is increasing in significance -- and we focused on this a lot in 2007, 2008, and I think it's continued -- is cybersecurity. We've seen some very dramatic, publicized attacks, not terrorism so much as espionage and things of that sort. But that is going to become an increasing area of concern for the Department.
MS. MITCHELL: How well equipped are we, Secretary Napolitano, to deal with the cyberthreat?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: We've done a lot of cyber in the last two years. We have, basically, a whole segment. NPPD is devoted to cyber. We have the National Cyber Incident Center across the river now.
We actually negotiated an agreement with the Department of Defense as to how we could use the technologies available through the NSA, at the NSA. So we actually have Homeland Security persons working at the NSA with lawyers and a person from our privacy office sitting there with them, because there are legitimate concerns there. So we have to do this in the right way.
But I think cyber will be an ever-evolving area. And the problem with cyber is, almost by the time you're talking about something, they're onto the next thing. I mean, it is really a fast-moving field. And, quite frankly, probably none of us on this stage are as good at understanding it as somebody who's 20 years old and who's grown up with the computer just as part of life.
So this is an area where we are really trying to hire people. And if there are students in the audience who have any cyber interest, cybersecurity interests, I would ask them to see me after this program.
MS. MITCHELL: You are going to have a long line.
Chairman King, Peter King?
CONGRESSMAN KING: First, let me thank the secretaries for the jobs they've done. All three of them I think have done a really outstanding job. And I think what they showed today was the importance of layers of defense and how the threat is constantly evolving, how the Department tries to stay ahead of it, and tries to manage it.
But I'd like to comment more, Andrea, on what you said about the media. I thought what the media did, leading up to Thanksgiving, with TSA was absolutely irresponsible. It made it out that TSA was more dangerous than Bin Laden. And I come from an area which lost over 400 people on 9/11. I don't mind people going through my -- I don't mind people being checked out. Can there be improvements? Yes.
But I thought, leading up to Thanksgiving, especially on the most heavily-trafficked day of the year, the whole system was going to be brought down. I think 99.9 percent of the people went through or they didn't have any complaints, and then the story suddenly dropped. I think that creates a wrong impression for the public, that somehow the Department is the enemy, that TSA is the enemy. And we should realize, we have an enemy that's out there. It's out there, and it's over here, and we have to be on guard against it, working together as one.
So maybe this is a loaded question to the secretaries, but how can the Department do a better job of reminding the American people the enemy is there, it's not us, and that we have to stand together, and that we shouldn't allow any particular criticism of a particular part of Homeland Security to be used to criticize the entire effort?
MR. RIDGE: Thank you very much for letting me go first.
Peter, I think that during the past eight years of the Department, that's been one of the messages, regardless of who's been Secretary, that communications folks have been really focused upon. We don't want to be breathless about the threat. We used to talk about this in terms of this being the new norm. In the '70s and '80s, the norm was the mutual assured destruction. The threat was nuclear. This is a new norm in the 21st century, and a norm that we're going to have to deal with all the time.
So I think our job, and the job of Congress, and the job of the media, is to report, not to pile on, not to exaggerate -- hyperbole doesn't get anybody anywhere, but just to remind everybody. And I think, to a certain extent, the media helps it, even though they're not consciously trying to, because of the globalization of communication.
When we look around, it seems like there's a terrorist attack of some form or another that is reported on a regular basis. And I think, at least after 9/11, people began to understand, we're not more vulnerable because of it; we're just more aware of our vulnerability.
So I think it's the job of the secretaries, and the Congress, and all those associated with it to say, look, the threat is real, you bet. We've dealt with grave threats in our history before. We had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us and we had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at the other folks. And under that umbrella, which we accepted as the norm, we built a strong America, the strongest economy, strong military, civil rights movement.
So let's just remind everybody, the threat's real. We're going to be dealing with it for several generations. Let's not be breathless about it. Let's set some priorities. Let the professionals worry about it, and let the rest of Americans go about enjoying the opportunities they have here. But I think it's everybody's job to remind the general public, press Secretary, Congress, it's there, we're working on it, let's not be breathless about it. We're America. We'll deal with it.
MR. CHERTOFF: I guess I would add one thing, which I hope you take away from that conversation we've had here, which is important to the issue of homeland security, not just the Department, but the issue as a whole, be a non-partisan issue. And we've always traditionally treated defense as non-partisan, and I think it's important that we avoid what some of the media do, which is to try to find wedges to drive between people.
There can be disagreement about strategies or tactics, but there should not be disagreement about the motivation of the people in the Department, whatever their party, which is dedicated to the U.S., and dedicated to defending the country, and making good-faith judgments. I think that's an important part of the message that we send to the American public.
MS. MITCHELL: That's a perfect segue to Jane Harman, who has always represented a bipartisan approach to homeland security in Congress, representing the 36th District in California, now the incoming president of the Wilson Center. Jane?
CONGRESSWOMAN HARMAN: Obviously, the press is perfect after a plug like that. Full disclosure. Yesterday was my last day in Congress. As a senior member of Peter King's committee, I spent 17 years, even -- well, not the first few, but starting in about the late '90s, focused on the threats against our country and what to do about them.
Several things. First of all, the Wilson Center is non-partisan, and I want to commend all three secretaries for being bipartisan in the way they have treated their department and building each on the record of the last; I mean, Homeland 1.0 to 2.0 to, now, 3.0, continuing the policies of your predecessors and trying to improve them.
I think that is admirable, and that is something the Wilson Center does, focusing on risk management at the border, and on immigration, and on some of the tougher issues, trying to be bipartisan, non-partisan. I also am affiliated with Aspen and its homeland security strategy group.
Here's my question. You were talking a bit about homegrown terror, and you gave some examples where community -- alert citizens, or in some cases law enforcement, found these people and turned them in before they could harm us. Obviously, communities turn in people, too. The Somali folks who have left Minneapolis and moved to Somalia, our knowledge about them comes, to some extent, from their parents and community members. And in Northern Virginia, five men immigrated to, or at least traveled to Pakistan, intent on joining Al-Qaeda. They were turned in by their relatives. Turned in may be a loaded word, but the law enforcement learned about them from their relatives, and that has happened in a number of cases.
My question is, how important is it to build bridges to the Muslim community? Not all of the terrorists are Muslims, but how important is it to build bridges to the U.S. Muslim community in order to learn more about those among them who might seek to harm us, and what are you doing about it? How have you three evolved your efforts to build bridges to the Muslim community?
MR. RIDGE: I think I'll go first again. I don't know what Secretary Napolitano's doing, but I suspect she's building on what President Bush, and we started, and then Secretary Chertoff followed up on. I know there's particularly been an emphasis within the FBI to reach out and build those relationships.
It's about trust. It's about credibility. It's about tempering and being careful of the language we use to describe the Jihadists and these extremists, as sometimes, I think, for political reasons, there's been hyperbole associated with the language and a general feeling, if you're a Muslim, you've been condemned. And I think most of us, all of us, think how inappropriate that is.
So I think it's a continuous outreach, recognizing, one, that by and large, the terrorists we're dealing with have come from that broader community. That's a fact. But it's also important to realize that of the 1.3 or 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, we may have some of those Jihadists within it.
But, by and large, our responsibility is to reach out and embrace them, as we've done for every religious belief, and build that level of trust and credibility, like the families in Minnesota and the families in Northern Virginia. And it's just like the man who went into the embassy to talk about the Detroit bomber, to talk about that; that's the kind of information, one of the sources we need to get the actor before they act.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Yes. And we have built on that, and the FBI has efforts. We participate in those. We have a civil rights and civil liberties component within the Department. They have an active outreach program. The Muslim community, in terms of the associations, have reached out to us and invited us to colloquia, to other meetings in their communities and so forth
So there's an active bridge-building going on, and it's important because, as Tom said, it's important to distinguish Muslims from Islamists, and from terrorists, that very, very small percentage who seek to do us harm. That small percentage exists. It's there, but it's not the Muslim community at large.
MR. CHERTOFF: I agree with that. And the only thing I would add is, it's not just a matter of getting the assistance of the community and identifying people who are dangerous, and that has happened. But it's also getting the community engaged in countering the narrative of the extremists who come in and, to be honest, recruit there.
And so it's the sons and daughters, mostly the sons, in that community who become the cannon fodder for the terrorists. And it's important to give the community a feeling of stake in the adventure of this country, which is the best antidote to having more recruiting going forward.
MR. RIDGE: I might add to that, too. I think there's two other dimensions. It's not just the federal government reaching out, the big city police chiefs and the like. I think a lot of the big cities, they're doing their very best, Jane, to do that.
I think it's very important for the incumbent ‑‑ I'm going to push the responsibility back to the broader Muslim community and the clerics that lead it -- to stand up, and be vocal, visible, and consistent in their condemnation of those who basically hijack their religion. I think we'd like to see more of that, so this relationship has to go both ways.
We want to trust and embrace them because they are a source of information, but we need a sustained advocacy on their part and condemnation of what they see going on, of those very few people who have discredited this historic and very, very powerful religion.
MS. MITCHELL: I do want to bring in some of the questioners. I know we don't have all that much time, but people are lined up, so let's take questions from the microphone there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. My name is Juan Rickafort (ph) and I'm a senior here at Georgetown School of Foreign Service. I'm also actually completing a scholarship with DHS, so I want to start off by saying thanks for helping me pay my tuition and going to school here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is actually about national cybersecurity, particularly it's been a stated goal of this administration and this Department to expand and build upon our national cybersecurity workforce. I'd like to ask, aside from offering the economic incentives, I'd like to ask your thoughts on how we can provide the right cultural incentives to get more information security specialists, basically hackers, or those who have the capabilities to be hackers, into our government.
I think that our nation has one of the most talented and skilled communities of hackers in the world, and that's a great resource for us to tap into in terms of going forward with our cybersecurity mission. But, unfortunately, it seems that many of the members of the community, and in some cases some of the best of them, remain distrustful and wary of the government because of security concerns and regulation policies.
I'm curious what your insights are on meeting this challenge, and how we can possibly bridge this trust gap and get more information security specialists, those who are the best at what they do, to working with us and improving our national security.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I'll dive in there. First of all, we reach out directly. The Office of Personnel Management has actually given the Department direct-hire authority to hire a thousand cybersecurity specialists, so that will be helpful, I think. But the problem we have is exactly as you stated, that people who are really good, who you want, they have not thought about working for the government.
So we have recruited some very nationally-known hackers to be on our Homeland Security Advisory Committee. We speak in our present. There are actually hacker conventions and we are there.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: We're there. You see some of us. But to a larger point -- and this goes, actually, beyond cyber -- is talking with young people about careers in public service. And it's more than a year or two at a particular nonprofit or whatever.
It's really investing your life in your talents, working for the greater good, working in the government, which is where you can achieve that, and then providing the opportunities to demonstrate that, you know what, your skills are needed to protect the country. Your knowledge is needed, your intellect, your energy, what have you.
So anything we can do to persuade young people that, you know what, this is a great way to invest your talents, is something that we're willing to do. And, in fact, I'm giving a series of lectures around the country this year at universities, and they're on different subject matters, but they're also designed to introduce the Department to university students as a place to have a career, and a very rewarding one, actually.
MR. RIDGE: If I could add one more to that, it'd be great if Congress would take a look and revisit the rules, and restrictions, and regulations about engaging the private sector more intimately in developing partnerships with the federal government. I know, from my own experience, even early on when I tried to attract some very, very talented people to help me on an advisory board -- remember, this was just starting.
The regulations associated with bringing in private citizens, engaged, smart, talented, experienced private citizens to sit side by side with government in order to advance a broader interest of security and safety is very, very difficult. The regs are written to the extent that we're not really going to trust people in the private sector because, heaven forbid, they might be financially advantaged, either with a contract or just general information.
I think it's about doggone time that this country recognized that its talented pool of people we have in the federal government, the wealth of experience and capability in the private sector, ought to be brought into the federal government to deal with a lot of issues, not just with cybersecurity.
So what I hope -- and I think the President even alluded to a more efficient, more effective government in his State of the Union -- part of that process is making it a lot easier for people in the private sector to join in partnership. I mean, all these regs are written to take care of an aberrant behavior, somebody who might be misguided, and we ought to just trust the Americans who want to work with the government, make it a lot easier for them to partner with us, particularly in the area of cybersecurity.
MR. RIDGE: We've got a lot of talented people in the federal government.
MS. MITCHELL: Thank you very much for your question. We only have about five minutes left, so let's try to get some more questions there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you all for joining us. My name is Drew Endorf (ph). I'm a senior in the School of Foreign Service here. I'm currently taking Secretary Madeleine Albright's course on national security. We have an upcoming day-long role play as a review of AVPAC (ph) policy, in which I am playing you, Madame Secretary.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So my question for you is, from the perspective of the Department of Homeland Security, what are your priority objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan? And are there any specific policies or policy changes that you would see towards that end?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: First of all, I think we have people from the Department working in Afghanistan. And part of the issues -- or one of the issues there is to translate from a military presence to civilian and to capacity build in Afghanistan. So I was there myself. I spent New Year's Eve, actually, there.
What we were doing is helping them build a customs department, because if they can collect customs revenue, that's revenue they can use to fund their government. And that in and of itself is very, very important. So one of our objectives in Afghanistan is to have a transition from a military to a civilian government.
With respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan, obviously, a key objective is to work with the governments of both countries to identify Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda havens, and to work to eliminate those.
MS. MITCHELL: Good luck with your role-playing, but the message to all of you students is, you can get into public service, and look forward to spending New Year's Eve in Kabul.
MS. MITCHELL: That's a great life. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thorn Smith, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. Did President Bush hamper the national will by not seeking a Congressional declaration of war against Al-Qaeda, or would it have been counterproductive had he done so? And what effect do you feel his response then has today?
MR. RIDGE: I think the president felt that given the joint resolution passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers gave him the authority to live up to what he considered to be his primary responsibility as President, and that's protect and defend the United States.
So the historians may look back and say there should have been a declaration of war, but the Congress acted very swiftly in a bipartisan manner, overwhelming vote in both chambers, and the President took that, as I think any president would have done, as appropriate responsibility to proceed to build the Department and to build all those offensive and security measures that he felt was necessary to protect and defend the United States.
MS. MITCHELL: Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm Joe Donovan. I'm co-chair for the commercial facilities sector. Madame Secretary, I'd like to say, first and foremost, the changes that have occurred in FEMA are absolutely wonderful. The private sector really enjoys working with Administrator Fugate, and Rich Serino, and we hope you keep that effort up.
My question is, what is the role of the private sector in the roll-out in the success of fusion centers?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Fusion centers, I don't know, Tom, whether you're started them or Michael, you did, but what they are, are, co-located state, local, federal entities, not only personnel but databases. The idea is to be able to more quickly share information among different levels of government, but also to receive information back, because one of the things that happens here in Washington, D.C., is they forget that there's a whole big country out there from which information needs to be guarded. That can be used to analyze trends, tactics, techniques that may be employed.
They are also all hazards, and that is where the fusion centers also deal with, say, for example, public health. And when we had H1N1, we employed the fusion centers to get out information about vaccines, vaccine availability, and the like. And different fusion centers have different relationships with the private sector.
Primarily, the most I've seen is with critical infrastructure, your utilities segment, your water, and so forth. And I think that, as we look at fusion centers around the country, that is a relationship in a capacity that we are encouraging. That is part of the grant guidance we are giving, and that's something that we look for when we travel. There are now 72 of the fusion centers.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good morning, Ian Hay with SERN, Southeast Emergency Response Network, and actually a HSIN CI pilot established under the leadership of Secretary Ridge.
My question is similar to Joe. We didn't plan this, but in terms of the recent attacks, Operation Hemorrhage, toward our critical infrastructure both abroad and here, what do you see -- for all three of you, what do you see is the role of engaging private sector with street-level real-time information-sharing?
MR. CHERTOFF: I think one of the critical issues is how do you make information available in real-time? And there are structures in place that do that, various centers and the sector coordinating councils in the Department. But I think one of the challenges is to turn that around quickly, and to make sure information gets out in a kind of telephone tree.
A lot of that, frankly, could probably be done online, and I think one of the obstacles has been the clearance process. Probably the biggest complaint I've heard since I've left, in terms of people in the private sector saying they can't get access to information, are some of the arcane requirements about getting a clearance, and who has to hold a clearance, and what you have to be doing in order to maintain a clearance. And simplifying that process, particularly for clearances at the secret level, I think would go some distance to making information available more quickly.
MS. MITCHELL: I think we are just about out of time, so that'll have to be the last question. And I want to, again, thank the Aspen Institute, thank Georgetown School of Foreign Service. The conversation will continue, by the way, as Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Ridge are frequent guests. Secretary Napolitano will be my guest today at 1:00 on my program on MSNBC, so I look forward to that, and make sure you show up.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: If I'm not there, you‑all should be worried.
MS.MITCHELL: Now that we've announced it.
I also want to point out that the Aspen Security Forum is going to have its July program in Aspen, July 27th to 30th, so more details on www.aspensecurityforum.org. So the Aspen Institute is going to continue an even deeper conversation about this, in a wonderful venue, I might add.
Again, thanks to Walter Isaacson, to our members of Congress. I see John McLaughlin there, former CIA director and active participant, of course, here at Georgetown, but someone with great expertise. And I think the German ambassador, our friend from the Federal Republic of Germany, was here, and I neglected to introduce him. But thanks to all, to Aspen, and to Georgetown, President DeGioia, and to all of you for participating in a very lively conversation.