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  6. Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at the Canadian American Business Council

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Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at the Canadian American Business Council

Release Date: October 1, 2014

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

Ottawa, Canada
Canadian American Business Council
(As delivered)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I appreciate the warm welcome to Ottawa and the hospitality of the Canadian American Business Council.

I welcome the opportunity to be here in Ottawa, your Nation’s capital.  I also welcome the opportunity to escape, for a short period of time, my Nation’s capital.  As my mentor and friend Bob Gates, the former Secretary of Defense, used to say, any day out of Washington is a good day.

This is my first trip to Canada as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I have been in office a little over nine months.  It has taken me far too long to visit my next-door neighbor in my new, official capacity. 

But it is hardly my first visit to Canada. 

In addition to speaking to you now, today and yesterday here in Ottawa I have the honor of visiting with Prime Minister Harper, Minister Raitt, Minister Alexander and Minister Blaney. Last night, my wife and I attended a terrific dinner hosted by Ambassador Heyman and his wife with a number of Cabinet ministers.  Our discussion reminded me of all we have in common – ranging from our shared interests in promoting trade, to the threats we face to our homeland. 

In the next few minutes I’d like to tell you about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and what we are doing today.

Today DHS is the third largest department of the U.S. government, with 240,000 employees, 22 components, and a total budget authority of about 60 billion dollars.

The Department has a broad and diverse set of missions. It is responsible for, among other things: counterterrorism; the administration and enforcement of our immigration laws; cybersecurity; aviation security: maritime security; border security; the security of our land and seaports; protection against nuclear, chemical and biological threats to the homeland; protection of our national leaders; protection of our critical infrastructure; training of federal law enforcement personnel; coordinating the federal government’s response to natural disasters; and emergency preparedness grants to state and local authorities.

The 22 agencies or components that make up DHS include: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (which, by itself, is the largest federal law enforcement agency in our country); U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement; U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services; the Coast Guard, TSA, FEMA, and the Secret Service.

In my view counterterrorism must and will remain the cornerstone of the Department of Homeland Security’s mission.   

Thirteen years after 9/11, it’s still a dangerous world. 

But, today the terrorist threat is different from what it was in 2001.  It is more decentralized and more complex.  Not only is there core al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Shabaab in Somalia, the al Nusrah Front in Syria, and the newest al Qaeda affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. 

There are groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, which are not official affiliates of al Qaeda, but share its extremist ideology.  Last but not least, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, previously known as al Qaeda in Iraq, is now vying to be the preeminent terrorist organization on the world’s stage.

Speaking for President Obama and our government, we are pleased that Canada is part of the international coalition that will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

To address the threats generally emanating from terrorist groups overseas, our government has in recent weeks enhanced aviation security.  In early July, I directed enhanced screening at a number of overseas airports with direct flights to the U.S. Several weeks later, we added more airports to the list.  Other countries have followed with similar enhancements to their aviation security. 

We continually evaluate whether more is necessary, without unnecessarily burdening the traveling public. 

Longer term, we are pursuing “pre-clearance” at overseas airports with flights to the U.S.  I am pleased that we have established pre-clearance at 8 airports here in Canada. 

We must be aware that since 9/11, the terrorist threat to our homeland has evolved in new ways.   

Today both our Nations face the prospect of so-called “foreign fighters” who go to Syria.  In February I said that, for us, Syria had become a matter of our homeland security.

Our government is making enhanced and concerted efforts to track Syrian foreign fighters who come from or seek to enter our country.

The reality is that more than 12,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria over the last three years.  We are concerned that not only may these foreign fighters join ISIL or other extremist groups in Syria, they may also be recruited by these extremist groups to leave Syria and conduct external attacks.  Our FBI has arrested a number of individuals who have tried to travel from the U.S. to Syria to support terrorist activity there.

We are committed to working with the Canadian government and others to build better information sharing to track Syrian foreign fighters.  This is reflected in the U.N. Security Council Resolution on foreign fighters passed last week.

Second, we worry about the potential domestic-based, home-grown terrorist threat that may be lurking in our own society -- the independent actor or “lone wolf.”  Those who did not train at a terrorist camp or join the ranks of a terrorist organization overseas, but who are inspired at home by a group’s social media, literature or extremist ideology.  In the United States, we got an example of this type of actor last year at the Boston Marathon.  In many respects, this is the hardest terrorist threat to detect, and the one I worry most about. 

Part of the way we are addressing the domestic “lone wolf” threat is to engage in outreach to communities in the United States which themselves are able to reach young men who may turn to violence. I personally participate in these programs.  Last week I visited an Islamic Culture Center in Columbus, Ohio for this purpose.

With the help of community organizations in a position to touch those disaffected from society and who need something or someone to believe in, belong to or worship, we are stressing that violence, terrorism and groups such as ISIL are not the answer. 

We stress that, despite its slick public media and its self-proclamation to be the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL is neither “Islamic” nor is it a “State.”  Contrary to the misguided belief of some, ISIL is not defending Islam, and it is not defending innocent Muslims.  In fact, most of the people killed by ISIL are Muslims.  ISIL is a stateless group of depraved criminals, rapists, kidnappers, killers and terrorists who control territory.  There is no religion, including Islam, and there is no God, including Allah, that would condone ISIL’s violent tactics.

The good news for our country and yours, I believe, is that over the last 13 years, we have vastly improved our ability to detect and disrupt terrorist plots overseas before they reach our homelands.  At home, both our law enforcement communities, in my judgment, do an excellent job, time and again, of identifying, investigating, arresting and prosecuting scores of individuals before they commit terrorist acts. 

The bad news is we continue to face real terrorist enemies and real terrorist threats.

All that said, I now turn to another major aspect of my job – facilitating lawful trade and travel at our borders and ports of entry. 

When John F. Kennedy visited Canada in 1961, the new American President noted how “geography has made us neighbors, history has made us friends, (and) economics has made us partners.”

Legitimate cross-border trade and travel between the United States and Canada is crucial.

  • Somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 people cross our shared border every day;
  • $734 billion dollars in goods and services cross our shared border every year, or $2 billion a day, or $1.4 million a minute;
  • 25 percent of all American exports come to Canada, the largest market for 35 of our 50 states.
  • Canada sells 87 percent of its output to the United States, generating about 40 percent of your national income.
  • Last year, Canada was the third largest source of foreign direct investment to the United States, its investment totaling $280.5 billion.
    • I’m told by Ambassador Heyman in the car ride over here that of every dollar of Canadian export, 25 percent is of U.S. content.
  • The same year, last year, the United States was Canada’s largest source of foreign direct investment, our investment totaling $368 billion.
  • U.S. subsidiaries of Canadian firms employ 546,900 workers, mostly in the manufacturing sector, with an average wage of more than $65,000 annually.
  • U.S. subsidiaries of Canadian-owned firms invest more than $500 million a year in research and development in the United States.

When my country was attacked on 9/11, our first response was to raise all the draw bridges.  Crossing points became choke points, for cars and cargo.

But, thanks to the commitment and work of President Obama and Prime Minister Harper, and the Beyond the Border initiative they launched in 2011, our governments are making real progress in enhancing perimeter security and the economic competitiveness of our two countries. 

We are doing a better and more sophisticated job of keeping our borders open to trade but closed to terrorists and those who would do us harm. And, we have achieved notable results that will improve the lives of the citizens, visitors and businesses in both our countries.

For example, together we have made improvements in and expanded the NEXUS trusted traveler program.   These improvements at land border ports of entry have resulted in a more than 60 percent increase in membership and participation in NEXUS since the announcement of the Beyond the Border initiative.

Today, more than one million NEXUS members are experiencing swifter and more expedient travel by gaining access to Canadian Air Transport Security Authority screening lanes at Canadian airports and the TSA Pre-Check program at U.S. airports, access to additional lanes and kiosks at a greater number of ports of entry, and a simplified renewal process. 

Second, we have developed a U.S.-Canada Integrated Cargo Security Strategy.  This is intended to facilitate the movement of cross-border cargo under the principle of “cleared once, accepted twice.”

We have also deployed an innovative joint Entry/Exit program at our common land border.  This has meant that the record of entry into one country is shared and becomes the record of exit from the other country for third-country nationals and permanent residents of both countries. This enhances the integrity of our immigration systems and will do so even more when we expand the program to cover all travelers.

I spoke about the importance of pre-clearance.  We are nearing completion of a groundbreaking preclearance agreement that, for the first time, will cover preclearance in all modes of border crossing -- land, rail, marine, and air -- and creates a new legal framework for officers operating in each other’s’ country.

By any measure, we are partners in success. Our economies draw strength from one another. And that makes it even more important that we build predictability into our trading partnership by streamlining the import/export process with electronically transmitted data through a “single window.”

Beyond the Border has allowed us to start harmonizing our data elements so we can eliminate duplication and burdensome paperwork to speed up the shipment of goods between our countries. The executive order signed by President Obama earlier this year mandated this electronic “single window.” It is going to strengthen the North American economy and make us more competitive as a region.

Our shared border is more than a simple geographical boundary. It is the site of more than 100 ports of entry – doors from one country to the other where the efficient movement of people and goods is crucial to the daily lives of our citizens, the health of our communities and the competitiveness of our economies.

As a result of the Beyond the Border initiative, and the collaboration it has fostered, our countries today are stronger, safer and more prosperous.

Significant progress has been made.  But I know work remains to complete some of the most ambitious goals of Beyond the Border.

I like to tell U.S. audiences that homeland security means striking a balance.  In the name of homeland security, I can build you a perfectly safe city, but it will be a prison.  I can build more fences, install more invasive screening devices, ask more intrusive questions, demand more answers, and make everybody suspicious of each other.  But, it will cost us our privacy, our liberties, our freedom to travel, trade and associate, and our diversity. 

In the final analysis, these are the things that constitute our greatest strength.   

Thank you for listening.


Last Updated: 09/20/2018
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