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Hearing of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security - Homeland Security and 9/11 Commission

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service September 14, 2004 Tuesday

HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY

SUBJECT: HOMELAND SECURITY AND 9/11 COMMISSION

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS COX (R-CA)

WITNESS: TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY

BODY:

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REP. BILL PASCRELL (D-NJ): Mr. Speaker?

REP. COX: -- I look forward to your testimony.

REP. PASCRELL: Mr. Chairman?

REP. COX: The gentleman --

REP. PASCRELL: Mr. Chairman, one second please? I take your answer to be no, then, to my question.

REP. COX: Well, as I said, the secretary is under a hard deadline. Let us see what we can accomplish in this hearing. I know that the secretary and the department have been very, very cooperative with this committee and will continue as such. The secretary is back again. We have had him several times before, and I know that this will not be the last time.

REP. PASCRELL: I'm not questioning the cooperation of the secretary. The secretary is doing fine in cooperating. It's the chair that is not doing fine. That's why I asked the question. We have a right to ask questions. We need the time. We're not going to be rushed through this. This is important to all of us, our families, our grandchildren. You've heard the speech, okay. And you continue to basically, the second half of the-of the questioners never get a chance to ask a question.

REP. COX: Well, in the interest of members --

REP. PASCRELL: That's the record.

REP. COX: -- having the time, I think the correct course just now is to proceed with the secretary's testimony and the opportunity for members to put their questions. So, Secretary Ridge, please proceed with your testimony.

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REP. PASCRELL: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary. There are a few areas in the 9/11 report, which the Homeland Security Department does not have direct attention to, and that is in the area of our relationships with other countries. You brought up one of the examples of biometrics standards, looking for a universal standard because we're going to need the cooperation of other countries in order to employ that particular standard. How critical it is, in chapter 12 in the 9/11 report deals with the subject of our relationships with other countries, and you know that, Mr. Secretary, and I'm not asking you to respond to this-you know our relationships with other countries in the last two years has gone south, whether we're talking about Ireland, whether we're talking about Greece, or talking about a lot of other countries.

Not only in the biometric standards are we seeking to have cooperation from other countries, but we need cooperation from other countries if we're going to check the containers that come into this country. We cannot, we cannot, we've been told over and over again, have enough of the state-of-the-art to check every container, the millions of containers that come into this country from every port and to our ports into this country, and that is why we have sought, and some countries are cooperating-many countries are cooperating, from what I understand-that they're checking the container before it gets on the ship that's coming to the United States of America.

Chapter 12, and this is only part of the example-if we don't have the cooperation from other countries, we cannot do, you cannot do your job, we cannot do our job. Would you just briefly comment on that?

SEC. RIDGE: First of all, in a broader context, Congressman, I think you're right. There are-as we try to build a global response to a global threat and to improve security around commercial aviation and commercial shipping and to improve the process around where all countries are comfortable with people and cargo coming across their borders, therefore developing standards with regard to maritime safety, aviation safety, document authentication, and identity verification, it's critically important.

I would say there has been great cooperation in those areas among our allies. The Coast Guard took the lead in working with the International Maritime Organization to begin developing security measures relating to ports and vessels, and Congress followed on when it passed the Maritime Transportation and Safety Act. We've begun working with the European Union on getting advance passenger information and, along that process, have begun discussions with them about biometric standards that will provide added layers of security so that we know the person that gets the document is the person that comes into this country. We're working a process right now within our own Department of State so if a foreigner gets a visa, they'll have their photograph taken, the finger scans given, so that when they come into a port of entry here, we can match the photograph and the finger scans. That's helping us domestically. We need international standards like that across the board.

The container security initiative-we're in 25 countries. We're not there unless they agree, and a matter of fact, most of those countries help pay for the technology. So with regard to some of the initiatives that we've undertaken, and certainly from a law enforcement and an information-sharing basis, I think the collaboration among-within the broader world community has been very, very good and, frankly, I think it's getting better.

REP. PASCRELL: We need the international community, there's no two ways about it, and I hope that we can have damage control, and I hope, with people like yourself, yourself, that you will have-you know, because Chapter 12 has been ignored by most folks who look into the Commission report, and that's a critical part of this.

You know, I've seen fear. I've seen terror in the faces of people, Mr. Secretary. We don't need folks attacking us, because we're talking about non-state terrorism, for the most part. But I've seen terror on the streets of America of folks who cannot look out their windows in areas that are consumed by illicit drugs, and I'm very concerned about that terror that is just as real as the terror that you are doing such a wonderful job in. I'm very concerned about drugs. They've off the map. We don't even talk about them. And you know you can go to most cities in this country, and there is terror, and it's spreading into the suburban communities, and it's been spreading for a long time.

But I'm not making a political statement, by any-I remember when we first started this committee --

REP. COX: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman may proceed with the balance of his questions.

REP. PASCRELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I remember when we first started this committee, we asked the Coast Guard, and we asked the FBI if we were going to be taking away personnel and resources in looking at non-state terrorism and perhaps neglecting the interdiction, which is so critical, to more and more drugs, which are getting into this country. That's, to me, part of Homeland Security, isn't it?

SEC. RIDGE: I think, number one, you should know that all the agencies that we inherited who had a role within our war to combat illicit drug traffic still participate aggressively and very, very effectively. You're right, Congressman, it's another form of chemical warfare, and we've been waging that battle for a long, long time, and it is a weapon of mass effect. But you should be assured that the resources we have-there's so much interplay between illicit drug networks and illegal human networks, smuggling networks, and potential terrorist networks, so that when we work with the Mexican community with regard to illegal human smuggling or drugs or others, you should know that collaboration has improved significantly, and we have not lost sight of the fact that-an historic mission or responsibility for the Coast Guard and for other elements within our Department is combating drugs and, frankly, pulling these together, these units together under one department.

And I'd love to have Roger Macklin come up and spend some time with you. He's done a wonderful job in our department seeing to it that these resources have been integrated. We see change in the migratory pattern of drug traffic because of the interdictions in a certain part of the Caribbean and efforts we've undertaken both with all the assets we have and other resources within the federal government, we're seeing some of the drug-flow patterns change because the interdiction is getting much, much better. So I want to make it a point to have Roger come up and spend a little time with you. I think you'd be very comforted and appreciate the fact that, even within this Department of Homeland Security, this historic mission has-we have a sense of urgency about it, and we've made some significant changes in affecting the flow of drugs to the country.

REP. COX: The gentle lady from Texas, Ms. Jackson-Lee is recognized for five minutes.

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