Joined: Mar 17, 2005
Location: Staten Island
|Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:06 pm Post subject: Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
|Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore
American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore
March 29, 2006
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Thank you all for attending. I want to welcome the ambassadors who are attending. I donít know what you call a group of ambassadors Ė a gaggle of ambassadors? Anyway, itís wonderful to have you here and I look forward to being able to meet with you tomorrow. Iím also delighted to be able to meet with members of the Chamber and to talk about what weíre doing at the Department of Homeland Security.
Itís a little bit ironic to be the Secretary of a department that is called ďHomeland SecurityĒ and to find that I am spending a good deal of my time dealing with international and foreign matters. I think itís a reflection of the fact that our department has tremendous breadth. We deal with immigration. We deal with customs. We deal with transportation security, whether it be air, land, or sea. We have the Coast Guard. We have Secret Service. We have to deal with protecting infrastructure around the country. And we also have to deal with response and recovery when thereís a disaster. So all of these functions often bring us into contact with other countries because they require us to police and examine the interface between what we do in the United States and what is either coming in or going out, or might have some impact in the United States.
And so as a consequence of that, I find that I have to be very mindful of the need to work in partnership. Much of what we do cannot be done alone. It has to be done with the cooperation of countries all over the world, and also has to be done with the cooperation of state and local government and the private sector. This is because most of the assets and most of the employees that we have to bring to bear on issues of homeland security -- whether itís preventing terrorism, protecting against terrorism if it happens, or responding to an attack -- most of the assets and employees are not owned or employed by the government. They are owned or employed by private parties and businesses all over the country.
So we are, maybe more than most departments, a department that works in a networked fashion as opposed to a top-down command and control fashion. In that sense, itís a real 21st century department. Itís a very young department and not a fully mature department, but I think that when it comes to fruition it will really reflect the best of what the 21st century has to offer in terms of how we manage issues.
Itís particularly fitting that I come to Singapore. I think this is the second time a Secretary of Homeland Security has come here. I think my predecessor was here. Itís my first trip to Asia in this job. Asia is a very significant trading and travel partner of the United States. What we do in the United States with respect to homeland security will have a major impact on travel and trade for people here in Asia. So therefore we need to be very closely aligned with our partners in this part of the world in making sure that the steps we take are appropriately balanced to promote security, but not at the expense of those attributes of our world that make life worth living: our freedom, our prosperity, our ability to travel and satisfy our curiosity. My hope in traveling in Asia -- I started out in Japan and after Singapore Iíll be in China Ė is to make sure that we continue to promote a common vision of a secure travel and trade environment. An environment which does elevate security for everybody, because security is indispensable to travel and trade, but does so without breaking the fluidity and the ease with which we currently use our systems of going around the world in order to make sure people can travel and also sell and buy the things which they want to sell and buy.
Let me begin by talking about something which is particularly relevant in Singapore: the ports. Now if you follow the newspapers or CNN or BBC, you know that in the last month or so we had a lot of attention all of a sudden focused on the issue of ports in connection with a particular transaction that ultimately has gone through in a modified form. But the fact of the matter is weíve been talking about the issue of port security for at least as long as Iíve been in this department, and actually from the time the department was first formed.
A huge amount of the worldís supply of all kinds of goods moves over the oceans, and that means keeping that supply moving -- and making sure that the supply chain doesnít become a vehicle to be exploited by terrorists -- is a critical element of what we have to do at the Department of Homeland Security. So how do we do it? Well sometimes I hear people say, ďYou donít inspect 100% of the containers that come in to the United States and we have to get to the point where we inspect 100% of the containers.Ē Now I pause so you can all assimilate what that would mean. Sometimes I respond by saying, ďWell, Congressman, letís try an experiment. Letís have a pilot program where we do it in the port in your state, but before you agree to it, why donít you go to the longshoremen and ask them where theyíre going to work in their next job, because the port will be shut down.Ē
Thatís an example of the kinds of issues we face. Itís what I call the challenge of risk management: recognizing that we canít protect everybody against everything, at every moment, in every place. Even if we could, it would be at humongous cost to things that we value, and therefore we have to balance the risk. We have to focus on the most serious risks. We have to do a cost-benefit analysis about how much security, and we have to make intelligent and rational decisions about it. But at the same time thereís always emotion running below the surface. Itís easy for people, particularly in the wake of a particular event, to say, ďWell, why donít we just close everything down? Why donít we just put a guard on every container?Ē And the challenge for me, and frankly the challenge for the business community, is to continue to educate the public that we donít make rational policy and security by reacting to particular events or particular anecdotes. We do it by always looking at the intended, and the unintended, consequences and weighing the benefits and costs of what we do.
So how do we do it with respect to seaports? Well we use a layered series of defenses. We recognize that there are vulnerabilities that begin at the port of embarkation, continue through the supply chain as you stuff the container and load the container, continue as the vessel leaves the port and comes to the port of destination, and then continue even in the port of destination where we have to be concerned about who might get access to containers or ships when they are in a port unloading.
To make sure that we address all these issues, but do it in a way that gives us resilience if one level of defense fails, we begin our security at the port of embarkation. We work with the international community and international port standards, using the Coast Guard to work with foreign governments to make sure their security levels at foreign ports reach the standards that have been set by the international community. Our Container Security Initiative, which was pioneered among other places here in Singapore, puts U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials into foreign ports to work with foreign customs officials. First of all, they screen every container that comes to the United States, and screen doesnít mean open and inspect, but it means they get information about whatís in the container to make a risk assessment of what we ought to get into and what we should not get into. And then we work with them to inspect high-risk containers overseas before they even get on the ship to come to the United States. By the end of this year, 82% of the containers coming to the U.S. through maritime commerce will be coming through a Container Security Initiative country. This means, from the United Statesí standpoint, weíll be doing the inspection at the earliest possible time. This is good for the ports of embarkation, because it means the containers are going to spend less time when they arrive, and itís good for the United Statesí security.
We leverage the private sector with our Customs - Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. We say to the private sector, ĎIf you are willing to invest in security, above and beyond what the government does, youíll get credit for that in terms of inspection. We will speed your containers through more readily because weíll have a comfort level about the security of what is in the containers, both in terms of initial stuffing and in terms of potential tampering.í
And finally, weíre leveraging technology. The thing we fear the most, of course, with containers is bringing in some sort of deadly material like a nuclear bomb or radioactive material. Here the key is radiation detection equipment which can detect radioactive emissions quickly, as youíre moving containers through rapidly, so that you donít sacrifice your through-put in order to get your security assessment of the potential of the radioactive bomb or a nuclear bomb on a container. There again, our MegaPorts initiative, undertaken with the Department of Energy, works to put radiation portal monitors in major ports all over the world as a way of counter-acting the danger of proliferation. Iím pleased to say that we have a written agreement here with the Government of Singapore on MegaPorts, and within a matter of days it will be implemented as a pilot here in the Port of Singapore. I think that is a great model.
But I want to take you to the next level, and I want to give you a vision of where weíre going to go to strengthen our port security. Last year, I unveiled what we call a Secure Freight Initiative, which is a desire to take our screening and inspection capabilities to the next level. There are three parts to this.
The first is more information. The way we screen high risk is that we look at all the data we have about the shipper, the consignee, the method of payment, and other characteristics. We measure that against the database, which has a very large amount of information about the history of transactions, including these actors and other actors. We use algorithms that weíve been able to devise over time to score risk, and then we identify the containers that are high risk under that method of analysis. Those are the ones that we then spend the time on, x-raying and potentially even breaking bulk and getting into the container itself. It will become obvious that the more information we have about what goes into the container at an earlier stage in the supply chain, the more precise our screening, the more intelligent our decision-making, and the better our security.
So weíre going to be looking in the next year or two to build a capacity to have better information about whatís in containers. And weíre going to look to the private sector to pioneer in this: to develop better databases and better control over what are the constituents of the containers, and to work to assimilate that information and be able to present it to our officials in a way that is readily available and can be readily analyzed. And then, using technology, build in ways of protecting the containers against tampering and ways of tracking the containers so we can detect anomalies.
The name of the game here is essentially to profile the containers. The more we profile them, and the better we profile them, the more our security will be enhanced. This is definitely something the private sector can leverage to its own advantage. The bottom line for people who ship is that you want to get it there quickly. You donít want to be sitting there in the Port of Long Beach for two weeks while your containers are being looked at. The more the private sector is prepared to assemble this information and make it available, and to invest in security for the containers, the less likely it is that their containers will be stopped and inspected on the U.S. side, and the quicker the material will get to where it has to go.
The short answer is that investments up front Ė and an hour or two ahead of time Ė can save days and weeks at the receiving end. My hunch is that this will be a methodology that will be used not only by our ports, but by ports all over Europe and Asia that are receiving goods, and that we are going to generally raise the level of security across the board.
The second area is people. We still have to make sure that bad people donít get into these containers, even if we can put security on the containers themselves. And that means protecting the ports. Weíre going to continue to move aggressively with our port inspection program under these international standards overseas. In our own country we are, I think, a little bit overdue on unveiling our Transportation Worker Identification Credential for the ports. But this year we will get well underway in getting the kind of screening and background checking for port workers in the U.S. that is appropriate, given the fact that our ports are a very significant piece of critical infrastructure.
Third, weíre going to continue to push forward on technology. Next year we will get to close to 100% radiation portal monitors in U.S. ports, meaning 100% -- or close to 100% -- of all the containers will go through radiation portal monitors in the U.S. before they get into the stream of commerce. But we want to build the next level of monitors: lighter, quicker, cheaper, and more precise.
In an effort to do that, weíve set up a Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which is going to be our program manager for 21st century innovation, research, and deployment of anti-nuclear detection equipment. I think we all understand that perhaps the greatest threat and the one we have to work hardest to prevent Ė because there is very little you can do to respond Ė is the possibility of a nuclear device being detonated by a terrorist. Unlike other kinds of threats where response and protection can mitigate the damage, there is not much protection against a nuclear bomb and there is not a lot of response. You better prevent it up front. And thatís why weíre putting in a substantial investment: the Presidentís budget this year is going to put over $500 million into this effort.
But itís not all negative. Itís not all keeping things out. Itís also encouraging things to come in. Earlier this year, Secretary Rice and I put together an initiative to try to promote easier and more welcoming flow of people into the United States. Recognizing that while we continue to want to screen people against our various watch lists and using our U.S. VISIT biometric program, we donít want that to be an onerous or discouraging vision for people who want to come to the United States.
The United States benefits when people are encouraged to work, study, and travel in our country. That means working to increase the number of visas for students and technological workers. It also means making the airports welcome. It means making sure that Ė when we issue visas Ė we use modern technology to do the visa process more efficiently and perhaps without making people travel a long distance. Expanding the length of time that foreign students can arrive, stay, and study in the United States -- increasing it, for example, from 90 days to 120 days. And enrolling companies for expedited visa processing; for example, working with American Chambers of Commerce all over the world to see if there is a way to get visas processed more efficiently without sacrificing the kind of security measures we have to put in place.
A second element of this, of course, is 21st century documentation Ė biometric, electronically-based and secure travel documents that canít be forged or copied. That canít be stolen or misused, and that allow us to give people a very easy and convenient way to move back and forth. And using a common platform so that people donít have to carry a lot of different kinds of documents, but can use the same kind of secure identification document for a number of different purposes.
And third, again, we want to start using data in an intelligent fashion, and in a limited fashion, to allow us to screen people in the way that we want to screen goods: more precisely, and therefore with less interference with the goings and comings of those who are innocent. A key to all of this, of course, is information. A lot of what we need to do internationally as we move forward on these fronts is to continue to share information. We can do it in a way that respects privacy, making sure that the information is not misused. But we have to recognize that when we allow stove-pipes, or seams, to develop between our various databases of information, we are creating avenues for terrorists to exploit. When we share information, if we do it in a disciplined way, we actually elevate the security of both those who share - and those who receive - the information.
Finally, let me turn to an issue which is probably less associated in the public mind with Homeland Security, but I think is very much at the core of what our Mission is: preparedness. Whether youíre dealing with a terrorist attack and the need to respond to an attack, or a natural hazard, the ability to respond and mitigate damage is a direct result of the way which we plan and prepare. That means training and exercising for what we can foresee as a potential risk.
The fact that matter is that weíve had a year, or year-and-a-half, that has been off the charts in terms of the kind of hazards we have seen visited. Just from natural disasters, putting aside the London bombings of July of last year and, as you go further back, bombings in Bali and Madrid and really threats all over the world.
There was of course the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. In response to that disaster, both United States and Singapore were able to deploy substantial assets, as other countries did as well, to deliver supplies and rescue thousands of people. That was due in large part to the fact that both of our countries have in fact used the military training and exercising process to build capabilities to deal with natural disasters when they occur.
Hurricane Katrina in United States was, if not the largest natural disaster in American history, certainly the last since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Just to give you an idea of the dimension of this, by the way: 90,000 square miles were devastated. That is roughly the size of Great Britain. About a million and a half people had to move in a period of little over a week, the largest mass migration in American history except for the migration that occurred over a period of decades in the early 20th century as part of what we call the Oklahoma dust bowl. We had literally million of millions of metric tons of debris. Forty thousand people were rescued in the space of a little over a week, many of them by the Coast Guard or other elements of the Department of Homeland Security. Again, I think in the United Statesí history, itís probably the largest rescue ever affected in a short period of time.
Iíd be remiss if I didnít take particular note of the efforts made by the Republic of Singapore to assist us in dealing with the tragedy of Katrina. The Singapore Air Force flew more than 80 sorties and transported over 800 evacuees and more than 540 tons of humanitarian supplies and sandbags. There are actually Singapore Air Force detachments and helicopters based in Texas that train and exercise with us. So that is an example not only of preparedness at work, but of the kind of mutual assistance that we all need to bring to the table in dealing with the disasters that can befall us.
We know as we stand here now that a potential disaster we all face is Avian Flu. It may never become a serious human threat, but whether it remains a threat to our livestock or our poultry, or whether it matures into a serious human threat, weíre going to be dealing with very significant challenges that are global in nature. Challenges having to do with screening to keep illness away but maintaining international trade and international travel. Dealing with the issue of quarantine, but doing it in a way that doesnít break our economy or result in unintended consequences that would cause as much havoc and as much harm as the disease itself. And again, because Avian Flu -- like so many disasters -- would be global in its impact, our preparedness is best accomplished if we continue to work and communicate closely with our allies all over the world, including of course those here in Asia.
We live in a century that is posing not only new threats or new hazards but maybe traditional threats and hazards that affect us in a new way. Globalization has given us a tremendous amount of ability to leverage international assets to deal with problems but, at the same time, the capability of terrorist groups to exploit our international travel system has enhanced their leverage. The cascading effects of a disaster in one country are now felt much more readily all over the world. Itís kind of a take-off on the old saying, ďWhen one country sneezes, another one catches a cold.Ē Nowadays when one country sneezes -- and hopefully itís not an Avian Flu sneeze -- the whole world catches cold, or maybe catches the flu. That means that we have to be ever more alert to make sure we are talking to each other, we are training with each other, we are exercising with each other, in order to be able to respond in a unified and coordinated fashion to these challenges.
As representatives of international business here in Asia, you have a special role to play in this. Not only are you ambassadors of globalization, but the fact of the matter is if there is an Avian Flu, for example, itís going to affect your businesses. How your businesses plan for continuity and how you react is going to have a major effect on the way governments are going to be able to behave.
I will conclude my remarks by giving you an example from one of the hurricanes last year. After Katrina hit New Orleans and Rita hit Texas, the most powerful hurricane of all was Wilma. Wilma was the last of the great hurricanes and it came ashore -- after devastating Mexico -- in Florida. We knew Wilma was coming. The Governor of Florida and the federal government put a lot of effort into preparing. There was a huge reservoir of fuel that was made available in store, gas stations topped up, lots of supplies were pre-positioned. Everybody was ready.
One of the things I did shortly before the hurricane hit was to ask somebody to call the major oil companies and say, ďIf we have a hurricane and power goes out, in order to get power and everything else started, people are going to need to be able go to work. And theyíre not going to be able to go work if they canít drive, and they canít drive if they canít get gas. You all have gas in your gas stations, but you canít pump it if you donít have emergency generators. So will you have emergency generators in your gas stations?Ē And we were actually assured by many of the companies that they did have supplies of generators that they would deploy to gas stations that needed them when the hurricane hit. And it turned out, somewhat disappointingly, this didnít work quite as a well as it should have. The delay in getting the generators to the gas stations, and the delay of getting the gas stations moving, had a ripple affect on everything else that we were trying to do to get our resiliency back. As a consequence, I think Florida either has passed, or is considering passing, legislation to require gas stations to have generators as a condition of licensing.
My point is this: we are so interdependent in our world -- so much of what we do is Ďjust in timeí and based upon reliance on others in the private sector. When we donít do the kind of preparation for business continuity that we have to do to stay in business, we are not only letting ourselves down and our shareholders, we are letting everybody else down. We canít afford to have that happen. The time to think about what you would do if there were an Avian Flu or something like that Ė ďWho are your essential employees? Who could work from home? How would you make sure you had people to run essential services that have to be run out of an office? How would you prioritize if you had a limited amount of vaccine and you had to make a decision about who you distribute it to?Ē Ė the time to think about that is right now. Itís not to think about it when the emergency hits. So my plea to you is that you consider these issues as not merely issues of government, but as issues of individual families and individual businesses because we all play a critical role in this interdependency that we call globalization.
QUESTION: Mr. Chertoff, my wife is Singaporean and Iím American. We go to the U.S. in the summer. I go through Immigration in a matter of minutes; she goes through a lot of hassle frequently with the Immigration officials and all the different forms to fill in for all the procedures. This is unique to going to the United States, in contrast with other countries. What can your group do to make the immigration process more friendly? Iím not suggesting any lowering of security, but make the process more efficient and more friendly.
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Well, we are trying to make it more friendly, first of all, by working some pilot programs at the airports. Some of this is management of traffic flow. Some of it is reconfiguring airports. Singapore, of course, is a visa waiver country, and I think it is on track to continue that status, so that should eliminate the issue of getting a visa. I have to say, I donít think of the forms as terribly onerous. There are forms to be filled out, but it is not like filling out your tax forms. I see people doing the forms on the airplane. So, I think what we are really talking about are issues of managing airports and lines, and some of that may really be in the hands of local port authorities. One step we have taken is, through U.S. VISIT, we now use the biometric fingerprint as an easy way of checking people when they come into the country. I think that is not only a positive step for security, but itís a very quick process. Iíve seen it. Once you get up to the front of the line, you put your two forefingers down; it comes up within a matter of five or ten seconds. So, unless there is something unusual that gets someone called into secondary screening, it should be actually a fairly painless process. We are going to continue to try to refine it and make it better.
QUESTION: There have been some real positive developments on the world-wide stage in terms of dealing with port security. One particular thing that my company, IBM, has been very supportive of is the framework for supply-chain security. Trying to advocate on the business level to governments about the advantages of implementing these minimum standards, weíve run into sort of a road block. Or at least governments are pushing back and saying, ďWell, whatís in it for us? Is this going to benefit us or is it just going to slow our own goods going through the ports?Ē They talk about the U.S. suggestion at one point that we might create a green lane, for instance. Iím just wondering where we are in the process? Is a green lane still being considered?
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Absolutely, we already do have a kind of a green lane, because we do assess risk with respect to containers. Containers that come with security assurances are lower risk and therefore much less likely to be inspected. Now, weíll always do a certain amount of random inspection no matter what. I think thatís just good security policy. But ultimately, I think the vision we have is a vision in which -- with proper security protocols on the front end -- the very great likelihood is the container will move very rapidly when it reaches the United States. The flip side of that is going to be those ports that donít have that kind of security, weíll be able to spend a lot more time going through the containers coming out of those ports. So, I think you can do the math. There will be a real benefit to having the security programs; those that donít will find customs inspectors spending a lot more time opening up the bulk.
QUESTION: There has been a lot of discussion about seal verification on containers. Iím wondering when there will be a seal verification ruling from your department?
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Yes, we are in process of looking at a lot of different programs that we are going to use to enhance parts of security freights. Some element of that might involve a seal verification technology or some kind of locking technology. We want to make sure that weíve explored all the different options. We want to make sure we really understand the benefits. If you lock the door, and itís really easy to drill a hole in the top, Iím not sure thatís going to add a lot of value. So, I know these things sometimes seem to proceed slowly. Usually, what we have to do is proceed by rule making. Often what we try to do is to start first with a voluntary incentive program where we essentially give you credit if you take a certain step, but we donít necessarily mandate it. This is one of the kinds of things we are looking at, as we speak.
QUESTION: Secretary Chertoff, weíre a soybean processing and grain handling company, with a large operation in the Delta region in the United States. First of all, Iím sure I speak for many when I want to say thank you for all the hard work you are doing. You clearly have one of, if not the, toughest jobs in government and certainly one of the most important. Secondly, Iím wondering whatís been done in the wake of Katrina to improve the potential for disruption to the grain handling infrastructure. This caused such a negative ripple affect to the farm belt and to U.S. exports during that two-week period where exports were shut down.
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: You mean because of the port being blocked? Well, you know, this is a little bit tough, because first of all, we canít stop hurricanes. So when you do have a Category Three hurricane, you have a huge amount of debris deposited in the navigable waterway. The Coast Guard does get busy clearing that out. I think they were very quick in clearing that out. This was a potentially huge catastrophic thing, and I remember during the week of Katrina, this was brought to my attention. We spent a fair amount of time talking about how to deal with this issue, because we knew it could be economically devastating and also be a problem in terms of people eating. It was really fine work again by the Coast Guard and by other government authorities to help us clear that channel very quickly and render it safe to navigation. The short answer is, I donít know that there is a lot we could do to reduce the risk of that happening. The Coast Guard is more expert that I am in terms of whether there are restrictions we ought to enact in terms of what kinds of things are near the waterway or additional measures. At the end of the day, if you get a hurricane of some force that puts a lot of stuff in the water, thatís going to be a problem.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in the last couple of weeks, weíve seen the Dubai ports deal scuttled. Weíve seen an Israeli company unable to take over an American software firm. And as of last night Ė I was watching ďSquawk BoxĒ Ė where a fellow was talking about the security risks of Alcatel taking over Lucent. Is free trade dying in the U.S.?
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: No. I think itís important to treat each of these as separate cases. Iím limited in what I can say about them. This process of reviewing foreign investment for national security has been with us for many years. It has worked well. There are occasionally deals that are either disapproved or the handwriting is on the wall so people pull the deal. More often, when we have troubling deals, we impose restrictions that deal with national security issues, and allow the transaction to go forward. Dubai Ports World presents somewhat of a different issue because there, I think, what you saw was a judgment by the people who had looked at the transaction that with the additional measures that the company was prepared to accept, which actually and ironically, would have net increased the amount of security if you compare to what was the case without the deal. We thought it was a deal that could go forward on security grounds. It apparently tapped into a nerve of concern. It may be that one lesson is the need to educate the public and Congress in advance about the nature of, and the importance of, these transactions. I certainly think that we were dealing with a country here, and a company, that has been friendly to the United States. We have huge military assets that operate in that port with very good security. And it would be a really bad thing if we suggested to the world that we donít know who our friends are, or we treat our friends like enemies. Iíd say a critical element of not only trade policy and homeland security policy, but national security policy, is you ought to make it very clear to the world: we treat our friends as friends; we treat our enemies as enemies, and we do not confuse the two. That being said, I think that I would not put too much weight on that one transaction. Every once in a while a transaction comes along where something happens, and for whatever reason it becomes a huge public issue, but it doesnít always serve as a precedent in the future. There will be obviously some discussions about changes to the CFIUS process. I think it is important we do not politicize the process. Itís important it still be operated based on the facts and understanding of what the situation is and taking steps forward to make sure we address any national or homeland security concerns. But I do think we need to educate people to really understand what are real threats, and what are not real threats. And sometimes there are things that people think are real threats that are not; and sometimes people donít think about something that actually turns out to be a real threat. Certainly I think we have been pretty clear in saying that we want to encourage investment. We do obviously have to make sure that we can address any security concerns, but we donít want to be unthinking about it, nor do we want to convert the CFIUS process into an economic protectionism process, where it becomes a surrogate method for keeping out competition or keeping out investment because of nonsecurity related concerns.
QUESTION: Secretary Chertoff I work for a global employee mobility company, and of course part of our job is we send a lot of repatriating families back to the United States, as well as people from overseas who go to the U.S. to work. So we send household goods and personal effects to the U.S. And in the last two years, it seems like household goods and personal effects seem to be in a blacklisted category and it seems to have experienced 100 percent customs inspections at U.S. ports. So my question is, if this is so, is there anything the industry can do to perhaps work towards, you know, gaining the trust of your department to ensure that these things can move a whole lot faster, because obviously there is a lot of emotional attachment toward, you know, the anxiousness of getting the shipments as soon as possible. Thank you.
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Thatís a very challenging issue. You point out obviously when you are dealing with consolidating large individual or small individual groups of items into a large shipment that common sense tells you that this is a kind of classic area that you have to be careful about. It would be very easy for someone -- you donít have a known shipper -- it would be very easy for somebody to put something into that. And I think what we are looking for is increased understanding of what goes in, and making sure that once something does go in, it canít be tampered with. So to the extent that businesses invest in a model that creates some kind of verification about what goes in, and does it up front, I think that is a positive step. But I would be -- I donít want to mislead you -- I think that freight forwarders who consolidate large numbers of different shipments are always going to be in a different category than shippers who deal with regular known shipments that have been based on what is produced in factories, for perfectly obvious reasons. But again I would put the burden on the industry. If you can convince us that you have a way of creating a level of trust and kind of a ďregistered travelerĒ for these kinds of goods, we are certainly open to listen.
MODERATOR: Any questions from the press?
QUESTION: Recently there was an incident of some radioactive material that apparently was smuggled in through Canada and Mexico. It was in the news recently. Can you comment on it?
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: I donít know if I can say much about it. First of all, it wasnít radioactive material that was smuggled, and it was a test that a government agency did. I will only tell you what is in news accounts. I havenít seen the report. The news accounts relate that the material was in fact picked up on the radiation portal monitors and the question was whether there was phony documentation, forged documentation it had come out of a nuclear regulatory commission. And I think it raised some legitimate questions about whether we need to have a tighter flow of documentation or tighter control over the kinds of documents that will be accepted for certain kinds of shipments. Really, I think it is an issue that has to do with the regulation of radioactive material that is available for medical use for perfectly benign purposes. I want to emphasize by the way that this could not -- by any remote stretch of the imagination Ė have resulted in a nuclear bomb. There was some debate in the press about whether there was enough material to make a radiological bomb, and I canít tell you the answer to that. We are always dealing with the challenge of raising the level of security. And in this case, I think the good news was that the detectors did work and the customs and border protection inspectors properly followed the protocols, and if we need to tighten up on the general rules that govern the transmission of radioactive material for legitimate purposes, then we ought to do that.
AMCHAM PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary, as you can see, there is a great deal of interest and support here for what you are doing. And we want to thank you very much, and hope on your next Asia trip you will make another stop here.