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Homeland Security in a Globalizing World

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge
German Council on Foreign Relations
October 29, 2003
Berlin, Germany


Ladies and gentlemen, guten Abend, it is nice to return again to your beautiful country and to spend some time for the first time in this beautiful and historic city. I am most grateful for the invitation to spend some time with you this evening and to share a few thoughts about our collective role at this time in history. As partners in a global coalition, we deal with the first war of the 21st century, and that is the coalition in the war against international terrorism.

Berlin has certainly stood at the apex of history...and certainly knows well the two first “isms” of our time. It took a world war to defeat fascism, a war against enemies who dehumanized life. It took a long protracted Cold War to defeat communism, a war against enemies who sought to overpower a way of life. That war would last until the Berlin Wall came down, an extraordinary historic moment on a cold night in November nearly 40 years later.

Now we are embarked on a war against international terrorism, the third “ism.” History has not yet recorded how this war will be characterized. What we do know is that Germany and the United States - as strong nations and strong allies - are united. We are all in this war together.

Let there be no doubt that, while there may have been differences with some of our most valued NATO allies, the friendships we share with Germany, with Europe, are both strong and cherished.

We have a transatlantic alliance so firmly based on shared beliefs and shared interests that no moments of divergence or publicly trumped-up feuds can derail it. And those who think otherwise serve only to detract and distract from our mutual goal - to ensure a peaceful and cooperative security environment around the world.

The American people know that we will always find friends and strength in multinational partners - in the European Union, in NATO, in the United Nations - in a true “culture of cooperation.” And that is important. Because we know all too well - from the terrorist attacks in America, in Bali, Tunisia, Baghdad, in the incidents of destruction and chaos that occur sometimes each and every day across the globe, and obviously the incidents of the past several days in Baghdad were the most painful recent reminder - that terrorism is a global scourge, not a regional one. And a global enemy requires a global response.

Moments after 9/11, America and its allies knew full well - the fight against global terrorism would, like the Cold War, be a battle that would not be won easily. We knew that it would not be won in days or even years. Perhaps we have to admit it might not even be won in our lifetime. And yet, together, Germany and America saw the obstacles and the long road ahead and said simply and correctly, “Let us begin.”

Less than two months ago, Americans reflected on the events of 9/11. In places of worship and places in our hearts, we remembered. Vivid images of loss and destruction seared into our consciousness were once again brought to the surface. But so were other images - images of heroic courage and incredible sacrifice. Images of people running up burning flights of stairs to save others. People risking their lives to aid those trapped. People rushing the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93.

These are the images that resonate deep within, that motivate and inspire America when the road seems long and full of obstacles. These are the images that remind us that ordinary people, when challenged, are certainly capable of doing some extraordinary things.

Yes, we are recovering from the 9/11 attacks. But we will never forget. And our national goal to do everything possible to avoid another September 11th has and will affect how we engage the rest of the world.

For 227 years America’s fortunes have been tied to wave after wave of immigrants from around the globe. Such openness to diversity continues even today. It is a reflection of who and what we are as a nation.

Several hundred thousand international students attend our colleges and universities every single year. They enrich our academic community and contribute to the intellectual, cultural and scientific climate of our country. Some choose to remain in America; most return home to work to improve and better their countries.

Thousands of international travelers arrive every single day at our airports. By land, by air and by sea, we welcome nearly 600 million workers, tourists, students, business travelers and families every single year.

Not long ago, I boarded a cargo ship in the harbor of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was registered in Singapore. The cargo was American grain. The crew was from India, and it was bound for Japan.

The U.S., by design and desire, has been and will always be connected to the rest of the world.

The ultimate destination of that student or business traveler, or ship or airplane that I mentioned could be any country in the world. The benefit of ensuring that only legitimate travelers and legitimate commerce cross our borders applies to all of us, every country in the world.

The interconnectedness of the world today spans many sectors - military, economic, educational and, yes, even homeland security. No one country can be truly safe without the cooperation and like-minded commitment from all other countries.

This type of “interdependence,” we think, is a good thing. It helps inspire one another to higher standards. It compels us to be innovative and unified in our approach to security. The terrorists who seek to harm freedom-loving countries and the people who inhabit them want to see a “house divided.” It serves their purposes. They want to cause dissension and distract us from our common goal - and our common goal is their demise, their defeat.

If we are to be successful against them, a worldwide commitment and worldwide resolve is required. And worldwide, that is what we are seeing. Since the events of September 11th, a counter-terrorism coalition of 170 nations has begun working together in the critical areas of law enforcement, information sharing, transportation security, cyber security and financial asset seizure.

Germany is an active and vitally important participant in this global coalition. Your efforts have made a valuable contribution to fighting terrorists both inside and outside of German territory. You played an important role in both Operation Enduring Freedom and the UN’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And we haven’t forgotten that you too have lost soldiers in the fight against international terrorism.

Within the last two years, Germany’s law enforcement officials have arrested several suspected terrorists, including some allegedly instrumental in the September 11th attacks, and some allegedly plotting a terrorist attack against the U.S. military base in Heidelberg.

Additionally, Germany has seized more than 200 bank accounts of terrorists containing several million, and generated domestic antiterrorism reforms that have helped “spot and stop” terrorists who attempted to find sanctuary on German soil.

And may I just add, on a personal note, that America greatly values the warm relationships we have with our investigative and security counterparts in Germany.. most notably Minister Schily. Equally, I must tell you my colleagues and friends Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller, CIA Director Tenet -- all speak very highly in both a personal and professional way of the productive partnerships they enjoy with Minister Zypries; with Directors Kersten and Fromm and Hanning. They have a good day to day working relationship between our governments.

Because we are more than just allies; we are friends; we are partners in the war against global terrorism. And we have been fortunate to work with you, and in the spirit of good friendship, learn from you as well.

Unfortunately terrorism is part of Germany’s - of Europe’s - collective experience: Germany against Baader-Meinhoff and the RAF; France against fundamentalist threats from North Africa; Spain against the ETA; the Britons against the IRA. You know about terrorism. You have been combating it in different forms for a long time.

So, while terrorism is not a new phenomenon, we must recognize that in the 21st century it is a different one.

Some call terrorism a nuisance; some just accept is as a fact of life. Let them call it what they will. But let us as partners in this effort always speak the truth: Terrorists are not ‘‘freedom fighters,’’ terrorists are not ‘‘political warriors.” Freedom fighters do not crash planes into buildings, they do not detonate bombs in dance clubs and tourist buses, or release bioagents in subways. They do not engage noncombatants in battle. They murder. Their motivation and methods are merely to kill what they do not understand or what they deplore - freedom-loving people and freedom-loving countries around the world.

Today’s terrorists run the gamut from well-funded groups to madmen who use catastrophic acts of violence as a political instrument. They seek the disintegration of democratic societies through attempts to undermine free governments. They seek false glory in casualties and chaos.

As many have recognized: We have passed over into a more menacing frontier of warfare, potentially with far more horrifying consequences. International terrorism is the “new totalitarian threat.” For the first time in the history of mankind, a small number of people with weapons of mass destruction can wreak untold havoc in our cities and against our citizens. These perpetrators, these terrorists seek chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons...and before them lays a map of the entire world.

They will choose their targets as they choose among opportunities - whether at the foot of the San Francisco Bridge or the entrance of the Brandenburg Gate. You never know.

Today the international community faces two realities in the fight for broad international security: One, the reality that terrorists find safe haven in hostile nations, or safe havens within the borders of failing governments and unstable regions. And two, the reality that terrorists have readily available to them weapons of mass destruction provided by hostile regimes. It could happen that way. They could act as surrogates. They could certainly act independently but as surrogates or agents of sovereign countries that have them. They also have accessability to varying weapons of scope and scale built and tested in camps and caves across the deserts and mountain terrain in which they hide.

Surely, it is no coincidence that this level of terrorism has coincided with the globalization of transportation, commerce, technology and communication. The same benefits enjoyed by freedom-loving people across the world are available to terrorists as well. That means that terrorists have greater mobility, more targets and more places to hide than ever before.

That’s why on September 11, 2001, they were able to turn several passenger airplanes into missiles, with an “army” of fewer than two dozen men and a budget of roughly a half million dollars.

So to fight back, we too must exploit our assets. We must investigate and prosecute and confiscate. We must utilize diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement and asset seizure - a multi-lateral approach to a multinational problem. We must enlist stronger collaboration and cooperation, and improved information-sharing, both within nations and between nations. We must use every available tool to repel and defeat these shadow soldiers.

St. Thomas Aquinas said three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do.

This vision...and the actions that drive it...offer no guarantees. The sheer depth and breadth of what occurs every single day in America means that one slip, one gap, one vengeful person, can threaten the lives of citizens, at any time, in any number of ways.

We can say that the American people are more secure and better prepared than ever before. Just as the United States and its Allies adjusted priorities and tactics to defeat the enemies of old, we have developed strategies to meet the current and constant threat of international terrorism.

One need only look back to the way things were before September 11. Before that horrible day, the idea of organizing major federal agencies to rationalize the U.S. government’s ability to protect the homeland was viewed as intellectually provocative - let’s talk about it, let’s study it, let’s debate it, it was really an interesting concept. But on September 10, 2001 it was viewed as very unlikely ever to become a reality, even though it had been studied for about 40 years.

And yet, on March 1 of this year, 22 agencies and 180,000 employees were merged into the Department of Homeland Security - the largest government reorganization in fifty years.

Before September 11, if you were traveling in the United States our efforts at our airports were limited primarily to a ticket agent, who asked if you packed your bags and if you kept them with you since you packed them, but little else was done in the airport or on the aircraft to provide security. Today, from the curbside to the cockpit, more people and technology work to make passenger airline travel safer.

Before September 11, we never looked in a container of cargo until it got to our shores, and nearly 20,000 containers arrive at our ports every single day. And yet, as I speak, there are U.S. inspectors in Rotterdam, in Singapore, in Hong Kong, in Hamburg, in Bremerhaven and other ports working alongside our allies to ensure the safety of cargo and international shipping commerce.

Before September 11 in America, our national stockpile of medications to protect our fellow citizens against a bioterrorist attack was drastically undersupplied.

Today, we have stockpiled a billion doses of antibiotics and vaccines, including enough smallpox vaccine for every man, woman, and child in America.

Before September 11, agencies in the federal government saw little need to share information and intelligence between themselves, let alone with state and local governments and state and local law enforcement officials. And yet, today secure communications technologies and expanded security clearances for representatives of state and local governments, along with the shared language of the Homeland Security Advisory System, create a powerful and constant two-way flow of information. A real challenge in a federal system. You can relate to that. This means that more effective actions can be taken by homeland security professionals at all levels to protect our country.

And, since standing up the Department of Homeland Security, we have also worked closely with you and other allies, to disrupt terrorists at their source, in cities and cells around the world. Globally - and this is why we need the international community to be as supportive as they can - globally more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been detained in 90 countries.

From these collective actions, we have learned the value of building strong global partnerships - partnerships that build barriers to terrorists, and build bridges to one another. Because our common interests go beyond our common enemies and our common values. We need not remind ourselves, but we need to be mindful of it, that we are brought together by a highly integrated global economy.

I believe it is in the global community’s best interest - in terms of economic security, mutual security - to develop a unified approach to the movement of goods and people across our regional and national borders. An approach that, to be effective, requires us to share, to pass back and forth, timely and appropriate information.

As we try to build a consensus around issues of protocols and standards, the United States is particularly sensitive to the historical, constitutional and cultural differences among nations. We also are mindful of concerns in the European community over the issues of standards and civil liberties with respect to biometrics, machine-readable passports, student visas and other security changes.

If we base our discussion, the global discussion - and we need to start with our transatlantic partners - if we base that discussion on the shared belief that it is in our mutual interest, not just America’s interest or Germany’s interest but America’s, the European and everybody else’s interest, to know who is coming through our doors and for what purpose, we will find common ground.

Reliable, accurate information does not harm civil liberties; it helps protect them. As President Bush has said: “We are in a fight for our principles - and our first responsibility is to live by them.” And so we will not erode the very freedoms we are charged to protect.

As you can well imagine, homeland security is a very human endeavor that is shaped by millions of human decisions and actions every single day all across the globe. America knows we cannot seek a double standard. And America knows - we get what we give.

And so we must and will always be careful to respect people’s privacy, civil liberties and reputations. To suggest that there is a trade-off between security and individual freedoms - that we must discard one protection for the other - we believe is a false choice. We will not, as Ben Franklin once warned, trade our essential liberties to purchase temporary safety. You do not defend liberty to forsake it.

Since September 11, our world has changed. America has changed. But much of what is important remains the same. America is still a welcoming nation that opens her borders to citizens from all over the world.

Our promise, the promise of America, still rests on a respect for the vast diversity of people and cultures that enrich our lives and our country. Freedom is still the hope of many and terrorism the choice of only an embittered few.

For centuries, tyrants and imperialists mistook power as a means to pillage and plunder. People and human potential were squandered at the expense of royal gold and mistaken glory. And, as a result, the history of human folly - great massacres and human misfortunes - is written in the textbooks of our time.

But we have learned the lesson of time and the lessons of events. We have learned that great powers can work together to do great things.

Our shared respect for peace, prosperity and the rule of law brings Germany and the United States an historic opportunity --to enjoy peace with the world’s major players for the first time in 100 years.

In my country and in yours, across Europe and throughout the world, we are blessed by the covenant of shared values and shared vigilance. We are both determined and self-determining. So, we will not rest, we will not waiver, we will not relent in the fight against international terrorism.

Two years ago, and two years since, we have seen humanity and its worst and at its best. But we know that the better part of humanity will ultimately prevail. Rightly, in the end, our mutual commitment to each other and our steadfast conviction in the justice of our cause will triumph over the weapons of fear and terror wielded by any enemy.

And so, years from now, historians will one day tell the story of Germany and America, strong allies and good friends, who in fighting for the freedoms and security of the world surrendered neither. Together, they will say, their salvation was their solidarity, and their solidarity became a force for freedom throughout the world. America joins you as full partners, and fond friends, in this cause.


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