POSTED BY LEON RODRIGUEZ
Editors note: This blog was orginially posted by USCIS on July 25.
Hello Beacon readers! On July 9, I was sworn in as the fourth USCIS director and have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know the wonderful people who work for this remarkable organization. Of all my duties as director, I must admit that having an opportunity to participate in and administer naturalization ceremonies has been especially important to me.
On July 22, I had the honor of swearing in new Americans at a naturalization ceremony hosted at the Department of Justice by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. This was my very first naturalization ceremony as USCIS director - and I can't imagine a more meaningful and moving experience as the son and grandson of immigrants who became American citizens. In fact, 50 years ago, I stood next to my parents as they took the Oath of Allegiance.
I was truly humbled to administer the Oath and congratulate 73 proud new citizens from 52 countries on their successful path to U.S. citizenship. There was an overwhelming amount of excitement and pride in the faces of those being naturalized in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice. Now I know why my predecessors said participating in naturalization ceremonies is the best part of the job. I look forward to more.
I am grateful and honored that President Obama asked me to lead the 18,000 men and women of USCIS. I believe that I was chosen for this position because of two elements of my professional background that don't typically go side-by-side. I've spent most of my career in law enforcement defending against all types of criminal justice threats. But a significant part of that background includes defending the most fundamental rights we have as Americans – our civil rights.
Our mission at USCIS is to secure America's promise - to welcome those who have earned our nation's welcome, encourage them to become citizens, and guard against those who would cause us harm. My job is to make sure we apply the laws fairly and with consistency, integrity and compassion.
Over the coming months, I look forward to pursuing a dialogue with you to ensure we continue to be the best and brightest beacon for all who wish to call America their new home.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security co-hosted the 8th Annual Chemical Sector Security Summit in Baltimore, Md., focused on strengthening chemical security and resilience across the country. We were joined by the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council and more than 500 government and industry stakeholders. This annual summit brings together industry experts, owners, operators, and government to share best practices andlessons learned, and to identify ways to make our nation’s chemical infrastructure safer, more secure, and more resilient.
Highlights from this year’s summit included a keynote address from National Protection and Programs Directorate Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding, who discussed the importance of having both a strong cyber and physical security plan in place. In addition, we heard from panels and presenters regarding the status report on Executive on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, a review of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, the importance of voluntary programs and resources, and congressional perspective on current and future legislation related to the chemical sector.
This year’s summit came at an important time when we are beginning the transition to implementing the recommendations brought forward under the President’s executive order. We discussed areas where we have taken critical steps in bringing together regulatory representatives and stakeholders with a vested interest in reducing the risks associated with the handling and storage of chemicals. The status report summarizes progress, focusing on actions to date, findings and lessons learned, challenges, and short and long-term priority actions, and focus on five specific thematic areas: Strengthen Community Planning and Preparedness; Enhance Federal Operational Coordination; Improve Data Management; Modernize Policies and Regulation; and Incorporate Stakeholder Feedback and Develop Best Practices.
At this year’s summit, we also highlighted the great strides that have been made in the CFATS program. The CFATS program is an important part of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts as we work with our industry stakeholders to keep dangerous chemicals out of the hands of those who wish to do us harm. Since the CFATS program was created, DHS has actively engaged with industry to identify and work with high-risk chemical facilities to ensure they have security measures in place to reduce the risks associated with the possession of chemicals of interest. While there is still work to be done, DHS to date has approved nearly 1,000 facility site security plans and the pace to approve and inspect facilities continues to improve.
Much of the important work ahead requires continued engagement with Congress to enact legislation providing multi-year authorization so that the program can continue its current path to success with stability. The Department is committed to continuing to work with industry, all levels of government, and Congress on a path forward to ensure the CFATS program continues to build on the progress it has made.
This year’s Summit once again brought people together in a way that I believe will lead to further progress and a safer nation. When it comes to the chemical sector, we are making great progress together and I want to thank all involved for a successful and productive Summit.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) joined the Departments of State and Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and 335 international experts and officials from 88 member states to participate in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics, Countering the Evolving Threat of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material out of Regulatory Control in Vienna, Austria.
Conference participants were provided an overview of IAEA guidance on how nuclear forensics can be used to help ensure successful investigation of a nuclear security event. This guidance, which DNDO helped develop, promotes international cooperation in capability development as well as during investigations.
DNDO presented our National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development program, which can serve as a model for other IAEA member nations. Established in 2008, the program is a comprehensive U.S. Government effort to grow and sustain the qualified technical expertise required to execute the nation’s nuclear forensics mission.
DNDO, together with the Department of State, also discussed the development of National Nuclear Forensics Libraries and the results of Galaxy Serpent—an international nuclear forensics exercise conducted by the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group. The forensics libraries are an organized collection of information on nuclear or other radioactive material produced, used, or stored by a country. Through the exercise, we were able to determine that these libraries can play a vital role in the investigation of a transnational nuclear security event.
Also highlighted were a number of technical advances in nuclear forensics signatures and analytical methods stemming from DNDO-sponsored research and development at the National Laboratories that will continue to advance our important mission.
Nuclear forensics is a keystone of nuclear security, as it supports international efforts to counter illicit trafficking of material that could be used in a potential terrorist attack, and helps to identify the origin and pathway of nuclear and other radioactive materials. Through our ongoing efforts, both at home and with the international community, DNDO continues to help advance nuclear forensics capabilities to keep our Nation and our partners safe.
For more information about DNDO, please visit www.dhs.gov/dndo.
Last week, I was joined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations Christopher Maston at the opening of the new DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Maryland Test Facility (MdTF) in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Many critical pieces of the S&T Apex Air Entry/Exit Re-Engineering (AEER) Project will be conducted at the MdTF — the next step toward meeting CBP’s need to enhance its entry and exit processes at U.S. ports of entry.
Apex programs were developed in part to allow S&T to work collaboratively with other DHS components to solve problems of significant strategic importance. The S&T Apex AEER project is a cohesive, seamless approach, conducted in partnership with CBP, to integrate biometrics within the entry and exit processes at U.S. ports of entry. The MdTF enables S&T to evaluate, assess, and leverage multiple biometric devices and proposed technologies with current or reengineered CBP operational procedures in order to develop and test new methods without impacting the traveling public, or CBP officers’ daily missions.
To accurately evaluate the performance of biometric devices in operational environments, the MdTF will simulate several operational airport setting scenarios outfitted with a variety of biometric implementations, such as a primary inspection station, entry booth, and boarding gate departure area. At the MdTF, S&T’s scientists will study, develop, and test these procedures and processes, and then pass our recommendations back to CBP for consideration and future implementation. Working together with CBP, we will test and incorporate all aspects of the technology and new procedures with volunteer participants from throughout the National Capital Region.
In addition to fulfilling multiple operational goals, the S&T Apex AEER program is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved under Secretary Johnson’s Unity of Effort initiative—ensuring the Department invests and operates in a cohesive, unified fashion, while making decisions that are transparent and collaborative. Just over a year ago, CBP approached S&T for assistance in achieving the Congressional mandate for biometric exit, as well as reengineering international entry and exit processes. S&T is honored to work with our CBP colleagues toward achieving these important goals, including opening the MdTF last week.
I am proud of the teamwork displayed by S&T and CBP over the past year of MdTF development, and I look forward to continuing our work together to develop a faster, safer, and more efficient entry and exit operation for our ports of entry to better serve the millions of travelers who travel through them each day.
As millions of Americans tune in to watch the World Cup and cheer on the U.S. men’s national soccer team, it’s important to stay vigilant against cyber criminals and hackers who may to try to take advantage of people’s enthusiasm to gain access to their information online. Hackers and identity thieves have been known to exploit high profile events using phishing emails and websites to target people looking to purchase tickets, merchandise, or stream video online.
If you’re purchasing merchandise or browsing for information on the World Cup, follow these tips to protect your personal information and avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Think before you act. Be wary of “too good to be true” deals. Free tickets, cheap team merchandise, cheap collectibles – if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Check your bank and credit card statements regularly. Make sure that you authorized all of the charges listed.
- Shop only at reputable online retailers. Look for the padlock symbol or for URLs that start with “https” or “shttp.” For auction sites such as eBay, check the seller’s reviews.
- Be cautious online. Do not click on suspicious links or download items from unknown sources. Only use secure wireless networks and websites (those that start with https://) when conducting sensitive activities online.
It is also important to always take steps to stay safe online, including:
- Use social media carefully. Do not divulge sensitive information (such as your address or birthday) over social media. Set your social network privacy settings so only your real friends and family can see your information.
- Set strong passwords. Especially for sensitive online accounts (such as online banking), make sure your passwords are complex and unique. Do not set passwords that will be easy for cyber criminals to guess.
- Keep a clean machine. Keep your software and operating system updated. This will help your computer better fight against malware.
- Lock your devices when you’re away. Prevent others from accessing your computer and mobile devices by locking your devices when they are not in use.
For more information on individual cybersecurity, visit www.dhs.gov/StopThinkConnect.
This week, we were proud to welcome more than 65 new U.S. citizens as our newest fellow Americans during special naturalization ceremonies held in Washington, D.C.
As America celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, 15 candidates recited the Oath of Allegiance just feet away from the flag during a naturalization ceremony on June 17 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson joined former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Dr. G. Wayne Clough, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Secretary Johnson joins former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a special naturalization ceremony. Official DHS photo.
These 15 candidates, symbolically representing the 15 stars and stripes on our Nation’s flag, hailed from Australia, Canada, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Italy, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Philippines, Romania, Sierra Leone and South Korea.
Candidates for citizenship wave American flags during a special naturalization ceremony. Official DHS photo.
After administering the Oath of Allegiance, Secretary Johnson congratulated the candidates by saying, "Each of you are Americans by choice, and you remind the rest of us of the value and importance of being a citizen of this great country."
Secretary Johnson addresses candidates for citizenship. Official DHS photo.
During the ceremony, celebrated fashion designer Ralph Lauren was honored with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his contributions to personal dedication to the preservation of national treasures as part of the 1998 campaign spearheaded by former first lady Hillary Clinton. Mr. Lauren’s contributions ensure the flag will be available for future generations. Mrs. Clinton and Dr. G. Wayne Clough presented Mr. Lauren with the award.
Ralph Lauren is presented with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal. Official DHS photo.
On June 18, Secretary Johnson was honored to join First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama for a special naturalization ceremony at the National Archives. Standing just a few feet away from the Charters of Freedom – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – Secretary Johnson administered the Oath of Allegiance to 50 citizenship candidates.
Secretary Johnson addresses candidates for citizenship. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
“I am proud to be among the first to welcome you as my fellow Americans,” Secretary Johnson said.
Candidates for citizenship recite the Oath of Allegiance. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated the new citizens in the audience, and delivered remarks to the audience on the importance of understanding our national history in order to advance future generations of civic leadership. “In many ways, it is because of, not in spite of, our immigrant population that we grow stronger every single day,” Mrs. Obama said.
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama addresses new U.S. citizens. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
She elaborated on the importance of immigration to our Nation, addressing the current issues plaguing our broken immigration system. She continued, saying: “Yet today, here in Washington, folks are still debating whether or not to fix our immigration system even though just about everyone agrees that it is broken. But I want you all to know that my husband has made this his top legislative priority, and he refuses to give up the fight. Because at the end of the day, this fight isn’t just about abstract principles, it’s about real people. People like you. People like us -- our fellow Americans.”
Juan Cua Monroy is one example of these real people. A student at Northern Virginia Community College, Juan wholeheartedly pursued his goal of becoming an American citizen. And yesterday, accompanied by the First Lady and the Secretary of Homeland Security, he led his fellow citizens in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
First Lady Michelle Obama greets new U.S. citizen Juan Cua Monroy, as Secretary Johnson looks on. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
Juan, and the other 64 new U.S. citizens naturalized this week are “Americans-by-choice.” As they took their Oath of Allegiance in the presence of our national treasures, their inspiring stories remind us that citizenship is something that none of us should ever take for granted; it is the highest privilege.
Posted by: Caitlin Durkovich, Assistant Secretary Office of Infrastructure Protection
U.S. Department of Homeland Security; David Michaels, Assistant Secretary, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor; and Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
On August 1, 2013, the President issued Executive Order (EO) 13650 - Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security - to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators, communities, and responders. Chemicals and the facilities that manufacture, store, distribute and use them are essential to our economy and livelihood, but the handling and storage of chemicals can present a risk that must be addressed.
Over the past ten months, we have taken critical steps in bringing together Federal regulatory representatives and stakeholders with a vested interest in reducing the risks associated with the handling and storage of chemicals. These efforts truly represent a shared concern among those with a stake in chemical facility safety and security: facility owners and operators; Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments; regional entities; nonprofit organizations; facility workers; first responders; environmental justice and local environmental organizations; and communities.
Today’s release of the status report to the President, entitled Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment, summarizes the Working Group’s progress, focusing on actions to date, findings and lessons learned, challenges, and short and long-term priority actions. These priority actions, captured in a consolidated action plan, based on the information collected by the Working Group, focus on five specific thematic areas:
- Strengthen Community Planning and Preparedness
- Enhance Federal Operational Coordination
- Improve Data Management
- Modernize Policies and Regulation
- Incorporate Stakeholder Feedback and Develop Best Practices
We want to underscore that this report is a milestone, not an endpoint. While the report describes many activities already undertaken to improve chemical facility safety and security, it also makes clear that much additional work is necessary to implement the consolidated action plan. We now transition to this implementation, an effort that will be completed over time and require the collective efforts of all of us with a stake in chemical facility safety and security.
Safety and security are a shared commitment. As actions in this report are pursued, we recognize that the Federal Government must put in place a transparent, inclusive process that continues to engage all stakeholders. We ask for continued engagement and active participation by all with a stake in chemical facility safety and security: communities, first responders, workers and industry; local, tribal, State, and Federal Government.
To read the Working Group’s report to the President: Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment.
As part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) led effort, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is playing a major role in curbing the spread of the Gameover Zeus botnet. This effort has been a great example of interagency collaboration and the partnerships between governments around the world and the private sector.
Gameover Zeus is an extremely sophisticated piece of malware designed to steal banking information and other credentials from the computers it infects; it captures banking credentials from infected computers and then uses those credentials to initiate or re-direct wire transfers to overseas accounts controlled by cyber criminals.
Researchers estimate that between 500,000 and one million computers worldwide are infected with Gameover Zeus, and that approximately 25 percent of the infected computers are located in the United States. Known losses attributable to Gameover Zeus approach $100 million – and it has been used in attempts to steal in excess of $325 million.
The alleged administrator of Gameover Zeus is also alleged to be the administrator of Cryptolocker. Cryptolocker is a form of “ransomware” that locks users out of their computers until they pay a ransom.
To combat this malware, the United States and other governments have worked with the private sector to take a number of steps. Today, DOJ is filing criminal charges against the alleged administrator and working to identify affected computers and criminal operators.
Concurrently, DHS is disseminating information of affected computers to Computer Emergency Readiness Teams (CERTs) around the world. As part of this coordinated effort, the DHS’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is coordinating with our partners at the FBI to notify those affected by the malware and provide them with technical assistance in removing the Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker malware from their computers. The DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which houses the US-CERT, plays a key role in triaging and collaboratively responding to the threat by providing technical assistance to information system operators, disseminating timely mitigation strategies to known victims, and sharing actionable information to the broader community to help prevent further infections.
Since this is still an ongoing investigation, there is still plenty of work to do, but we are pleased to see how effective our collaborations with cybersecurity partners across government, the private sector and internationally can be.
To protect against the Gameover Zeus malware, US-CERT recommends that users run and maintain anti-virus software and keep their operating system software up-to-date. To learn more about malware like Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker and mitigate their impacts, visit www.us-cert.gov/gameoverzeus. If you are concerned that you may be affected by Gameover Zeus or Cryptolocker, US-CERT recommends reporting the incident to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
This was originally posted on the TSA Blog.
It was a long and hard winter, but summer is in the air! Memorial Day is just around the corner and before you know it, you’ll be wearing white slacks and funning in the sun. This post provides links to a cornucopia of answers to questions that travelers frequently ask us. In addition to this post, be sure to visit our travel tips at TSA.gov and download the summer travel checklist (pdf, 430kb).
- Deodorant: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz. or less, but gel or spray deodorant is.
- Powdered Toothpaste: This is fine in both checked and carry-on bags and does not apply to the 3-1-1 rules.
- Suntan & Sun Block Lotion: Lotions – both pump and aerosol - fall under the procedures that I mentioned above. Sun block sticks do not fall under this rule.
- Beverages: Wine, liquor, beer, and all of your favorite beverages are permitted in your checked baggage. You can also bring beverages packaged in 3.4 oz. or less bottles in your carry-on bags in the baggie.
- Gel Inserts for shoes are now permitted.
- Foods: Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, dressings), jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces and soups.
|Photo Courtesy AustinTexas.Gov|
One of the top priorities for this Administration, and for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is to facilitate the travel, tourism, and lawful trade essential to our economy while maintaining the highest standards of security. That’s why today President Obama is announcing a major initiative to improve service levels and reduce wait times at our major international airports.
President Obama has directed DHS and the Department of Commerce to lead an effort to develop a national goal for improving the experience of international arrivals – in collaboration with our partners in the private sector – as well as airport-specific action plans.
DHS is committed to making America more welcoming for international visitors. We understand that security and trade are mutually reinforcing, which is good for security and the economy. And we also understand that we cannot achieve our goal of a safe, secure, and welcoming Nation for international visitors without the assistance of our partners in the private sector.
In addition to our work on the President’s directive, we have recently been taking action to improve international experiences for travel and tourism in a number of ways at the Department-level and in coordination with our stakeholders and partners. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have been tremendous leaders in this respect.
In fact, just yesterday I was in San Antonio, Texas, where I spoke at the 86th Annual American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Conference and Exposition and highlighted some of the steps the Department is taking to help bolster efforts to protect the aviation system while facilitating travel and tourism. I also had the opportunity to meet with AAAE members to hear firsthand their perspectives on the Department’s efforts to support economic growth and improve service levels. We discussed the importance of Trusted Traveler programs, like TSA Pre✓™ and CBP Global Entry, which are demonstrative of our continued work to improve the customer experience while enhancing security – and are also incredibly popular among the traveling public.
And earlier this month, we announced new openings for the Loaned Executive Program to provide top executive-level and subject matter experts from the private sector an opportunity to share their expertise with the Department. This is an important program, and DHS will continue to partner with the nation’s top executives and industry experts to solve problems, improve processes, and fully realize its mission.
As we work to fulfill the President’s directive, DHS will identify actionable steps to improve the international entry experience for travelers at airports and seaports across this country. We will build on the outstanding innovation and commitment to risk-based security that TSA and CBP have so ably carried forward to date.
It is a distinct privilege of mine as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security to welcome international travelers and new U.S. citizens to our great nation, and this effort will ensure that continues as we remain a top destination for travel and tourism from abroad and a continued generator of jobs and growth at home.