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By any measure, Cambodia has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Since its full independence in 1953, this nation of now 14 million has endured two distinct and lengthy conflicts, and dictatorial regime that – between 1976 and 1979 – annihilated at least 1.5 million Cambodians through execution, forced servitude, and malnourishment. Cambodia is a democracy today, but serious problems remain.
Child sex tourism in Cambodia is a persistent, pervasive practice that threatens the most vulnerable in this developing country. In recent years, the Cambodian National Police, international partners, and a number of non-governmental organizations have worked to crack down on pedophiles from around the world, arresting and prosecuting these criminals while working to rescue and rehabilitate the abused.
I am proud to say that the agency I lead, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is at the forefront of this emerging issue, and aggressively pursues Americans who travel overseas to abuse children. Millions of children fall prey each year to sexual predators, and these young victims are left with permanent psychological, physical, and emotional scars. Many American criminals clearly believe they can evade detection and prosecution by committing child sex crimes overseas. They are wrong.
My visit to Cambodia seeks to strengthen our ongoing cooperation with the Cambodian National Police. Earlier this week, we signed a Letter of Intent to solidify the working relationship between our two law enforcement agencies to combat child sex tourism. This agreement seeks to develop a bi-national, coordinated, and intelligence-driven investigative response to the sexual exploitation of children by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
There is no more poignant reminder of the critical nature of these investigations than a neighborhood outside Phnom Penh, known simply by its distance from the center of town – “Kilo 11.” There, predators from around the world prey on young boys and girls amidst the shocking poverty of a Cambodian slum. Accompanied by our Cambodian Police partners, we walked down narrow streets and dark alleys where we saw firsthand the extreme circumstances that lead some families to sell their children to these criminals – many of them from Western nations. Not long ago, ICE agents assisted in arresting an American man for abusing a six-year-old child in a ramshackle blue hut, set deep in this labyrinthine neighborhood. This individual was eventually returned to the United States and is currently standing trial for charges stemming from his arrest in Cambodia.
These types of cases are extremely challenging to investigate and prosecute, but we owe it to these young victims to take action. Tragically, many of these children will bear the emotional and physical scars of this trauma for the rest of their lives.
The United States would not be able to successfully prosecute these cases without the assistance of our international partners.
John Morton is the Assistant Secretary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
The Secretary just launched the DHS National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign Challenge, a call to individual citizens, stakeholders and the brightest in the business alike, asking for ideas to help promote public awareness about cybersecurity and cyber literacy. Proposals must be submitted by April 30 via www.dhs.gov/cyberchallenge, and winners will collaborate with the Department to develop and launch the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign. The Secretary announced the challenge at RSA conference in San Francisco, a gathering designed to offer "information security professionals around the world an unparalleled opportunity for networking and knowledge-sharing."
Check out all the challenge details and rules at www.dhs.gov/cyberchallenge, and start working on your idea.
“All Americans have an important role to play in securing our computer systems and cyber networks,” said Secretary Napolitano. “We are challenging our nation’s best and brightest to utilize their expertise and creativity to devise new ways to engage the public in the shared responsibility of safeguarding our cyber resources and information.”
Building on the Department's first-ever Tribal Consultation Policy announced by Secretary Napolitano last year, today we unveiled a new Tribal Consultation and Coordination Plan. This plan is a direct result of President Obama's Memorandum on Tribal Consultation signed in November 2009 that called for deeper engagement across the federal government with tribal officials.
The Tribal and Coordination Plan will ensure regular and meaningful collaboration with our tribal partners on a host of important issues. For example, it includes hiring a full time tribal liaison to work directly with tribes and serve as their point of contact for matters related to the Department. Under the plan, we also will actively encourage tribal law enforcement inclusion in state and local fusion centers, where they will work side by side with federal, state and local law enforcement to share information.
In addition, we will continue to engage tribes in the development of the Department's regulatory policies, grant programs, and other initiatives impacting tribes so that that their voices are heard and they have a seat at the table during the policy-making process. And we're going to continue to work closely with tribes to improve emergency management collaboration and planning.
In developing this new plan, we reached out to all 564 federally recognized tribes to make sure their views were reflected in the final document. The release of this new plan of action marks the beginning of a new phase of engagement with tribes and Indian Country, and the Department is pleased to be working closely with such important partners to our nation's security.
For more information about our work with tribes, or to read the new Tribal Consultation and Coordination Plan, please visit "Secretary Napolitano Unveils DHS Tribal Consultation and Coordination Plan."
Assistant Secretary, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
From Tulsa World, on the balance between security and privacy:
How does a country that offers its citizens more freedom than any other country in the world track and defeat domestic terrorists without trampling all over the rights of its citizens?
And how can Americans who are afforded such precious rights turn against the country that protects them and their rights?
How could a person betray his country and his family?
Those are difficult questions and ones that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security face. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently told the nation's governors that homegrown terrorists are becoming as big a concern as international terrorists.
She also said that the government does not have a good handle on how to prevent someone from becoming a violent extremist.
Prevention by the government is a difficult if not impossible task. The best deterrent is education and family upbringing. But young people have become radicalized for as long as there have been young people. Most grow out of it or channel their energies in peaceful manners.
But there will always be an element that becomes violent. And there is not much chance of stopping that. Thwarting that element is difficult because of the freedom that Americans enjoy. We have access to travel and free speech and religion that many countries don't have. If citizens want to travel to Yemen or Pakistan they are relatively free to do so.
What they do while in a foreign country is their own business as a U.S. citizen.
As long as they remain a citizen, they can return to this country.
From the Associated Press, on Saturday's earthquake in Chile:
The U.S. "will be there" if Chile asks for rescue and recovery help after a powerful earthquake struck the South American nation, President Barack Obama said Saturday.
He also warned people in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the West Coast to heed the instructions of local authorities about evacuations and other measures in advance of a tsunami moving across the Pacific Ocean.
"We can't control nature, but we can and must be prepared for disaster when it strikes," he said in a statement at the White House.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning - its highest alert - for Hawaii. The first waves were expected to arrive in Hawaii late afternoon EST. A lower-grade tsunami advisory was in effect for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area.
Before he spoke, Obama had a 20-minute conference call with staff and Cabinet members who updated him on conditions in Chile and on the tsunami. Participants included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"The United States stands ready to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts and we have resources that are positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for our help," Obama said. Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet, said her government has not asked for assistance from other countries.
From the Dallas Morning News, on an ICE sweep in the southwest:
The nation's top immigration cop said Friday that the Obama administration is stepping up enforcement against immigrants who commit crimes and will move aggressively against employers who hire unauthorized labor.
John Morton, U.S. assistant secretary of homeland security, said Friday that a three-day sweep in Texas netted 284 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions.
This week, 284 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions were arrested in Texas in a three-day operation involving multiple law enforcement agencies, said John Morton, the assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security who oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Of the total, 159 had convictions for violent crimes or serious drug offenses and about 119 were from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. About 80 arrests were made in San Antonio.
"These are not people we want walking our streets in Texas," Morton said at news conference in Dallas. "First and foremost, we are going to focus on criminal offenders."
But the enforcement, which ICE called a "surge," raised the question of why illegal immigrants with criminal convictions hadn't already been deported after serving time behind bars.
11 AM EST
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas will administer the Oath of Allegiance and deliver congratulatory remarks to 50 candidates for citizenship during a special naturalization ceremony with Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
2 PM Local
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will join Cambodian National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun to sign a Letter of Intent to enhance cooperation on investigations related to the sexual exploitation of children
Cambodia National Police Headquarters
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
6 PM Local
ICE Assistant Secretary Morton will participate in a media availability to discuss the U.S. and Cambodian law enforcement cooperation to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Cross-posted from The White House Blog.
The President made the following statement on the earthquake in Chile and preparations for a possible tsunami that could reach American shores later today:
Good morning, everybody. Earlier today, a devastating earthquake struck the nation of Chile, affecting millions of people. This catastrophic event was followed by multiple aftershocks, and has prompted tsunami warnings across the Pacific Ocean. Earlier today, I was briefed by my national security team on the steps that we're taking to protect our own people, and to stand with our Chilean friends.
Early indications are that hundreds of lives have been lost in Chile, and the damage is severe. On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the Chilean people. The United States stands ready to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts, and we have resources that are positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for our help. Chile is a close friend and partner of the United States, and I've reached out to President Bachelet to let her know that we will be there for her should the Chilean people need assistance, and our hearts go out to the families who may have lost loved ones.
We're also preparing for a tsunami that could reach American shores later today, particularly in Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam. A tsunami warning is in place, and people have been alerted to evacuate coastal areas. I urge citizens to listen closely to the instructions of local officials, who will have the full support of the federal government as they prepare for a potential tsunami, and recover from any damage that may be caused.
I also urge our citizens along the West Coast to be prepared as well, as there may be dangerous waves and currents throughout the day. Again, the most important thing that you can do is to carefully heed the instructions of your state and local officials.
Once again, we've been reminded of the awful devastation that can come at a moment’s notice. We can't control nature, but we can and must be prepared for disaster when it strikes. In the hours ahead, we'll continue to take every step possible to prepare our shores and protect our citizens. And we will stand with the people of Chile as they recovery from this terrible tragedy.
Thank you very much, everybody.
We will post video shortly.
Tsunami warnings are in affect for Hawaii, N. Marianas, American Samoa, Marshall and Solomon Islands. A tsunami advisory is in effect along the west coast of the United States and Alaska. More information can be found at the National Weather Center's website.
FEMA continues to monitor the situation, and through Region IX in California, is in contact with the State of Hawaii, and recommends that individuals follow the advice of local officials. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is monitoring the situation from FEMA Headquarters in Washington, DC and released the following statement:
FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are closely monitoring the situation, and officials are in close contact with the State of Hawaii and the U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean that could be impacted by a potential tsunami. FEMA stands ready to assist should a request for assistance be made, and does have pre-deployed assets in Hawaii, including food, water, generators and other resources. We urge all individuals to follow the direction provided by local officials.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been briefed and is monitoring developments from Vancouver, where she is serving as the lead of the US Delegation at the Olympics.
More information and resources:
- The National Weather Center's Tsunami.gov.
- General Information on Tsumani preparedness as well as a tool to determine if your address is in a tsunami evacuation zone.
- In Hawaii, citizens can go to http://www.scd.state.hi.us/ for the latest news and information. Additionally, the States of California, Washington, and Oregon have similar sites on their web pages dedicated to this.
- If you are U.S citizen looking for a loved one in Chile, please contact State's Consular Affairs Bureau on 1-888-407-4747.
- A "person finder" has also been published to help find individuals in affected area in Chile – this resource is not maintained by the US government.
Robert Gibbs is White House Press Secretary
What’s the biggest threat to an airplane? A knife? A pistol? While these items can be dangerous, with hardened cockpit doors installed after 9/11, an improvised explosive device poses the biggest threat to aviation security today.
I’ve talked about using Advanced Imaging Technologies to detect non-metallic and metallic threats, including IEDs already, but today I wanted to talk about another technology we have to detect explosives hidden on people and in bags.While going through checkpoints, you might have seen officers using little white swabs at TSA checkpoints at one point or another. In case you had no idea what our officers were doing, they were conducting state of the art Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) tests. And all along you thought they were giving your items a complimentary cleaning…
ETD tests are used in checkpoint, checked baggage, and cargo environments. We swab things such as laptops, shoes, film, cell phones, bags, wheelchairs, hands, casts - you name it. Certain procedures call for an ETD test.
Basically, our officers run the white swab over the area in question to collect a trace sample. They then place the swab in the ETD machinery which analyzes the sample for extremely small traces of explosives. The test takes a matter of seconds.
In the TSA of the past, our ETD machines were anchored to certain checkpoints or baggage areas. This is a mobile technology and we’re now going to take advantage of that luxury.
Recently, we tested ETD technology outside its regular use at checkpoints and checked baggage areas, and confirmed its ability to be used in other areas of the airport like the gate to check for explosives residue on passengers. Why the move? Since the attempted attack on 12/25, we looked at ways to immediately strengthen security using existing technology and procedures in different ways. ETD is quick, good for security and cost efficient.
Sure, we’re improving the checkpoints with technology such as Advanced Imaging Technology machines, but we currently have ETD machines at every checkpoint in the country and this new procedure will help us beef up security. Explosive Trace Detection is a highly effective, proven technology.
So as you travel, you might be asked for a swab of your hands at the checkpoint or gate. It’s painless and quick. The swabs are disposed of after each use and will not be used on more than one person.This is another way we can help keep the flying public safe from attempted attacks such as the one on 12/25.For additional reading, check out these new articles on our expanded use of ETD technology:
CNN: TSA to swab airline passengers' hands in search for explosives
USA Today: TSA takes explosives screening to fliers
TSA Blog Team