Janet Napolitano

Common Threat, Collective Response: Protecting Against Terrorist Attacks in a Networked World

delivered 29 July 2009, The Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address and Q & A


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Well good morning, and thank you very much. I want to thank Paul for your kind introduction, and I want to thank the Council on Foreign Relations for hosting us today.

I see Steve Flynn here. Dr. Flynn, like several of his colleagues at the Council, have been doing some very thoughtful work on homeland security. And I'm deeply appreciative of that.

As a Council member myself, it's good to be back here. The last time I was here was with Governor Haley Barbour on a panel on immigration.

Now I must admit that in the Department of Homeland Security -- it is somewhat of a large government department. So we are undergoing what we call efficiency review -- looking for ways to make sure that we spend every dollar, every penny we get, wisely. So I thought I would bring my CFR membership dues here today, so I could save the cost of postage. So Paul, I'll just leave these here for you.

Now the council is an institution I deeply appreciate, because it's one of the rare places where people will show up early in the morning, at breakfast time, to hear about threats of terror and government response. And this will be the highlight of your day.

But, alas, the topics that we are discussing are with us and are the challenge of a networked 21st century. And so it is important that the Council be apprised of what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to meet those challenges.

Now President Obama has been very forceful about seeing the threat of terrorism in all of its complexity and in bringing all of our resources, not just the federal government, to bear against violent extremism.

So today, I will speak candidly about the urgent need to refocus our counterterror approach, to make it a shared endeavor, to make it more layered, networked and resilient, to make it smarter and more adaptive and to make sure that as a country, as a nation, we are at the point where we are in a constant state of preparedness and not a state of fear.

The challenge is not just using federal power to protect the country, but also enlisting a much broader societal response to the threats that terrorism poses.

Now a wise approach to keeping America secure should be rooted in the values that define our nation, values like resilience, shared responsibility, standing up for what is right. These are the values that led us to fight and win two world wars, that were on display in the dark days after the September 11th attacks. We must embrace them again now.

So how do we secure our homeland and stay true to our values?  We do it with four levels of collective response. It starts with the American people. From there, it extends to local law enforcement, and from there up to the federal government, and then finally out beyond our shores, where America's international allies can serve and do serve as partners in a  collective fight against terrorism.

In the last four weeks alone, I have traveled nearly 30,000 miles, from Islamabad to Seattle, engaging partners in all of these levels. We have brokered international agreements, launched new partnerships and challenged our citizens to play their part in our collective security. We face a common threat; it requires a collective response. And we must face that threat and coordinate that response in an evolving and highly networked world.

So the networked world takes on many forms. The cyber-network that runs our power grids, fires our critical infrastructure and facilitates commerce is now a target and is itself vulnerable to attack. This networked climate forces us to rethink how best to protect our values and our security in a world where the tools for creating violence and chaos are as easy to find as the tools for buying music online or restocking an inventory.

We also live in a mobile world, with complex networks of people and information. We cannot forget that the 9/11 attackers conceived of their plans in the Philippines, planned in Malaysia and Germany, recruited from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and carried them out in the United States. So that's why our homeland security network must be built to leverage force multipliers: the cooperation of our international allies, the full powers of the United States federal government, the vigilance of the police on the beat, and the untapped resources of millions of our own citizens.

Later today, I'll assess progress at Ground Zero, a special place for our country and a poignant one for the Department of Homeland Security, which was created as a response to the 9/11 attacks. Last Friday I met with Governor Tom [Tim] Kaine, Congressman Lee Hamilton, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and others to discuss progress made in the five years since release of the 9/11 Commission Report.

There, we're right to note our achievements. Progress toward a more secure homeland doesn't belong to one political party; but indeed, much has also changed in just the past six months since I became just the third secretary of Homeland Security, after my distinguished predecessors Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. So let me give you a sense today of how I see the threat environment that we are in, talk about what we're doing to counter that threat in the four response areas I just identified.

So, what does the world we face look like today? First, while the terror threat is ever changing, it is critical to reiterate that the threat remains. The consensus view of the intelligence community, of which DHS is a member, is that the terror threat to the homeland is, quote, "persistent and evolving."

In my daily briefings and as a member of the President's National and Homeland Security Councils, this is something I discuss with the President and the rest of the security team on a regular basis. And so we're constantly looking for ways to better share information up and down the response ladder I just described, from individuals and communities to local law enforcement, to the federal level and then at the international level.

The broader context here is that we've invested considerably in our border and port security and have substantially reorganized the federal government to focus better on the threat of terrorism.

Now at the same time, there have been continued attacks against our allies and our interests. And make no mistake: Americans continue to be targeted in terror attacks. Just two weeks ago, American hotels were the target of bombings in Jakarta that killed eight people and injured six Americans. Six Americans were among the 164 people killed in the attacks in Mumbai in November of 2008. Three Americans were among the 54 killed in the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September of 2008.

So if 9/11 happened in a Web 1.0 world, terrorists are certainly in a Web 2.0 world now. And many of the technological tools that expedite communication today were in their infancy or didn't even exist in 2001. So therefore, more than just hardware, we need new thinking.

When we add a prominent former computer hacker to our Homeland Security Advisory Council, as I just did, it helps us understand our own weaknesses that could be exploited by our adversaries.

And the threats we face are by their very nature asymmetrical. Terrorism more often has become privatized violence, does not rely on leaks -- links to an army or to a sovereign state.

We often hear that this is what our globalized era looks like, but what is most salient about today's environment is that it is also networked. And in a networked world, information true and false moves everywhere all the time.

And in that networked world, everyone who is part of the network, meaning all of us, can enjoy the tremendous benefits, but also must be ready and willing to learn about and help address the vulnerabilities that come with these benefits. So the team we put on the field needs to be bigger, better networked and better trained.

What are the implications for this network world for the Department of Homeland Security?

It means that we must continue to take an all-hazards approach to preparedness, meaning we prepare for natural disasters as well as terrorist attacks. We need to comprehend and anticipate an expanding range of threats.

The threat of a nuclear or radiological device is of grave concern, and reducing that threat is a key administration priority. But we must be equally prepared for biological or chemical threats, which are capacities al Qaeda has sought for years.

We've seen greater use of IEDs and suicide bombers in terrorist attacks around the world. And given our responsibilities for enforcing our immigration laws and protecting our ports of entry, we are also keenly aware that illegal immigration is not only a matter of sovereignty but could pose a national security threat as well. The reality that potential terrorists could use a variety of ways to enter the country illegally -- fake documents, visa overstays and even border tunnels -- make this so.

Now DHS monitors and shares information about potential homegrown threats as well. These can be individuals, radicals -- radicalized by events abroad, or lone-wolf attacks.

And last, but certainly not least, we're spending considerable time and attention on the cyberworld. Under the Obama Administration's new cyberplan, DHS retains the lead role protecting the government's civilian sites while working closely with the private sector as well.

So what this range of threats shows is that while the shock and pain and images of 9/11 stay with us, the terror threat is even more decentralized, networked and adapted than on 9/11. The terrorists in Mumbai, for example, made use of GPS devices, satellite phones, mapping websites, like Google Earth, and even live cable TV.

Now we cannot hermetically seal off this country, the United States, from the rest of the world. So for DHS to be the best in the world at what we do, we have to multiply the effect of our forces and at the same time promote a global environment that is inhospitable to violent extremism.

Beginning at his Inauguration and continuing most recently at his historic speech in Cairo, President Obama has begun a different kind of dialogue with the Muslim and Arab worlds, recognized there is far, far more that unites than divides us. At our department, our Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is building stronger relationships with Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as South Asian communities across the country, so we can share information with community leaders in a timely manner and also become more culturally attuned to issues that members from these communities often face.

So what is the right response, and what are we doing?

As I mentioned earlier, there are four layers, and the place we start is the work of engaging the American people in our collective effort. I'm often asked if complacency is a threat in the United States, and I believe the short answer is -- yes. But I think a better question is this: Has the United States government done everything it can to educate and engage the American people? The answer there is: no. For too long we've treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than an asset in our nation's collective security. And this approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety, and fear to linger.

Let me stress, this is no small matter.

This is a first-order issue for us. The consequences of living in a state of fear rather than a state of preparedness are enormous. We may be better prepared as a nation than we were on 9/11, but we are nowhere near as prepared as we need to be. There are, of course, aspects of countering the terror threat that are inherently governmental, but the smart government is one that knows what it does best and which helps others do their best as well.

So here's how we're looking at this.

First, with respect to individuals and the private sector, we're taking a much closer look at how we can support and inform our greatest asset, individual citizens, and with them the private sector. You are the ones who know if something is not right in your communities, such as a suspicious package or unusual activity.

Three years ago, it was an attentive store clerk who told authorities about men trying to duplicate extremist DVDs. This led federal agents to eventually round up a plot to kill American soldiers at the Fort Dix army base here in New Jersey, in New Jersey.

Just last month, a -- just last month, a passenger saw two employees exchange a bag at the Philadelphia airport that had not been properly screened. That passenger's vigilance ultimately stopped a gun from getting onto the plane.

So there's no doubt that building a culture of preparedness in our communities will require a long-term commitment from all aspects of our society. But there are, as I said, simple ways for you as individuals and community and business leaders to engage right now. With basic training, every one of us can become better first preventers as well as first responders.

You can use ready.gov to make an emergency plan for your family. You can volunteer by contacting your local Citizen Corps or America Corps [AmeriCorps] councils. You can get free training on basic disaster response by joining a local CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team.

Second, we need to find new ways to work with the private sector to become more resilient to disasters of all kinds. And a key piece of this is securing our nation's critical infrastructure. This might sound just like a challenge for the government, but the fact of the matter is, 85 percent of our critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector. And these are critical. These are commercial facilities, chemical plants, emergency services -- much of it owned, as I said, in private hands. We must therefore be more effective at defining our critical assets and providing our private sector and their leaders with the knowledge and technical assistance to help them secure these assets.

Since the year 2003, DHS has issued more than 28 billion dollars in grants to help secure critical infrastructure at the state and local level, but it has to be more than dollars. It has to be the active engagement of employers who work with us, who work with the federal government and DHS to identify resources and plan for ways to secure them.

I recently appointed a task force to review our existing color-coded threat system. That was the system originally designed to inform the public, and different economic sectors within the public, about impending threats. That review is under way, and I mention it only to say that if a better, more effective system can be found, that will be used instead of the current color-coded one, just to see how -- the federal government and DHS rethinking what it needs to provide active information to individuals, to businesses, to employers.

The second layer is local law enforcement. And if you go out one ring from individuals and the private sector, you have 780,000 law enforcement officials across 18,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. Let me just say those numbers again: 780,000 across 18,000 departments. These men and women play an absolutely critical role, because they are the ones that can act on information they receive from individuals in the community, from their own observations, or from the intelligence community itself. But the ability of state and local officials, as well as the private sector, to prepare for threats and to respond to a disaster is only as good as their ability to receive useful information, understand what it means and act upon it effectively.

As Arizona governor, I took a lead role in creating our state's first law enforcement fusion center. Now, in a typical fusion center, an FBI agent might be sitting next to a state highway patrol officer; who might be sitting next to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agent; who might be next to an agent from the DEA or from the tribal police. They don't merely share space. They share databases and techniques. They share ideas and experiences. They break down barriers and build networks.

This ensures that local law enforcement has better information necessary to protect our people, our neighborhoods, our infrastructure. Fusion centers are and will be a critical part of our nation's homeland security capabilities. I intend to make them a top priority for this department to support them, build them, improve them and work with them.

We've now moved three dozen intelligence analysts out to the field. In other words, as we build the fusion centers, we need to move analytic capacity from the Beltway to the country. So let's -- how this is used. And I'll take it out of the terrorism context for just a moment. That if a law enforcement agency reports an increase in drug seizures of a particular type, that is a data point. That's a piece of intelligence. But a whole range of agencies working together in a particular fusion center can analyze that trend to understand what it means, how it will affect particular neighborhoods, and whether it foretells something even larger on the horizon.

In addition to the 70 current fusion center sites, the department will be collaborating with the Department of Justice and the FBI in more than 100 joint terrorism task forces across the country as well. So you see how we're creating the network -- individuals, private sector, now among fusion centers and the law enforcement community.

Then we move on to the federal role. Since 2001, the United States government has invested considerably in reorganizing itself to counter the threat of terrorism. Now, DHS obviously plays the critical role here because we were given the explicit mission to secure our country against attack. So we, therefore, have an obligation to be clear about that mission.

We are not the FBI and we are not the CIA, but we need to work in close coordination with them and with all agencies who have part of the counterterrorism portfolio. And the way we are doing that is taking information shared amongst the Beltway and improving the sharing of information up and down the ladder -- state, local, tribal communities -- to the private sector. So the addition of the ability to share intel is the value-added that the Department of Homeland security provides.

And we also provide protection at our ports. CBP -- Customs and Border Protection -- is handling now security at 327 ports of entry.

The Coast Guard is patrolling 95,000 miles of American coastline.

But their roles all depend, and their effectiveness all depends, on the smooth flow of information and intelligence so that their actions are pivoted from data, from actual information. So as we improve intelligence-sharing among federal agencies, and that, in turn, with our own department components, we also improve intelligence-sharing with, as I said, state and local tribal partners.

Next, our international partners. At the widest level, we have the many players and partnerships that exist internationally, as well as more that need to be created. I mentioned earlier traveling 30,000 miles in the last few weeks. But here's what that's really about. DHS, together with the Department of Justice, State and others, is brokering agreements with our allies in Europe and around the world to share information on air travelers in advance of their travel, to gather critical biometric information so we know who is in our country, to scan baggage and cargo effectively while still facilitating legal trade and commerce.

The idea here, to paraphrase former Secretary Ridge, is that our physical United States border should be our last line of defense, not our first. So together with the Department of Justice, we have now forged agreements to prevent and combat serious crime with 13 international partners. There's more to do on this front.

Now I want to give you a window into how important these partnerships are. Let me show you one example of our new approach and new thinking. Our growing relationship with Mexico is, of course, part of a broader effort, and it is designed to interdict not only the smuggling of narcotics, weapons, bulk cash, and people at the United States-Mexico border but also designed to recognize our strong national, our homeland interests in the United States and Mexico and its relationship, and the whole national interest we have in making sure that Mexico and the crime there and the large cartels there are broken up.

This direct, interactive approach with our international partners is a new approach which we think is critical to dealing with things like cartel violence and also helps us ensure that that violence does not spill across our border or weaken Mexico's ability to be a strong partner with the United States.

So we're going well beyond what we've done in the past. For example, by inspecting southbound train cargo, cars and trucks, and in fact, helping Mexico create an effective customs operation on our common southwest border that previously did not exist.

Let me close by going back to something I said earlier about people, because in the end, what we really do is about people. We are a nation of more than 300 million. More than that, we're a nation of families, communities, organizations, of cities, suburbs, tribes, all of their local governments and organizations. And within these groupings lies an extraordinary pool of talent, ingenuity, and strength.

We face a networked enemy. We must meet it with a networked response. The job of securing our nation against the threat of terrorism is a large one, and it may never be totally completed, but we have a much larger chance at success if we strengthen our own networks by enlisting the talents and energies of Americans.

Countering the terrorist threat is not just the effort of one agency. It is one -- or one element of society. Nor is countering terrorism the consequence of one tactic. Rather, it requires a holistic, unrelenting approach at all levels, with all tactics and all elements of society. We need to be the very best at what we do, and that means engaging and empowering our citizens to be part of our collective effort, an effort aimed at effective prevention and of resilient response.

So when I hear the phrase "Department of Homeland Security," I think of us as a hub, but the hub of a very large wheel that involves every single person in our country.

Thank you all very much. Here's the check.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Source Materials Obtained From: The Council on Foreign Relations

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Page Updated: 2/7/24

U.S. Copyright Status: Text and Audio =  Used with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations. Additional inquiries about the use of this material should be directed to the Council on Foreign Relations.























































































































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