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Speech

Anticipating the Unexpected - IATA AVSEC World – Keynote Speech

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Contact:
TSA Press Office
(571) 227-2829

Kip Hawley, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration

Geneva, Switzerland
October 26, 2005

Thank you, Gunther, for your kind introduction. It is a great pleasure to be among so many distinguished leaders, and I am honored that IATA has asked me to address you today.

Gatherings like this remind each of us how connected we are, despite the separation of national boundaries. We know from recent experience that we are not working alone in our efforts to diminish terrorism, the impact of natural disasters, and our exposure to new dangerous flus. We are strengthened by colleagues and partners around the world.

There is an Ethiopian proverb that says: When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. And, like these proverbial webs, our ability to work together is the key to our strength as a global society.

Nowhere is the world more networked than in the aviation system. From producing aircraft, staffing the industry, managing the airspace, and assuring its security and the security of our passengers – we depend on each other every day. And every day brings a new development. Every day brings living proof that, despite the most sophisticated application of all that mankind has learned, we are no closer to controlling our destiny.

I am pleased that Anticipating the Unexpected is the theme of this year’s conference. It reminds us that, rather than trying to control the future, we can be most effective by using basic tools and flexible thinking to respond to whatever challenges we face.

This theme echoes throughout the work we are doing at the Transportation Security Administration to realize Secretary Chertoff’s vision of a renewed and re-energized Department of Homeland Security.

Our fundamental challenge is to protect passengers, freight, and our transportation network in a constantly changing, unpredictable threat environment. We know that terrorists will seek to exploit weaknesses in our transportation system and its security measures. We also know that terrorists will adapt to the security measures we put into place. As a result, it’s simply not possible to exactly predict the next attack based on previous terrorist activity or to eliminate its risk. In this dynamic threat environment, history is an unreliable guide.

We can, and do, apply what we learn from intelligence, from attacks of the past, and from other lessons learned around the world, but terrorist activity is fundamentally not predictable in a statistical or actuarial way. We must, therefore, “anticipate the unexpected.”

Given the unpredictability and rapid change reflected in terrorist events around the world, our security approach must be based on flexibility and adaptability.

  • While it is necessary, it is no longer sufficient to protect against known or suspected terrorists. We must also protect ourselves against people with no known affiliation to terrorism.
  • While it is necessary, it is no longer sufficient to focus on finding threat devices, like guns and knives. We must also enhance our ability to recognize suspicious patterns and behaviors, so we can identify people who may have devised new means to attack our transportation systems or passengers, or who may have evaded other layers of our security system.
  • And, while it is necessary, it is no longer sufficient to subject every passenger to the same basic security procedures. We must create uncertainty and introduce an element of randomness in security operations to disrupt terrorist planning and attempted attacks.

Today, I want to discuss with you how we are responding to this changing and unpredictable environment by creating more adaptable, responsive security networks, and to seek your support for creating worldwide security networks that are sensible and safer.

At TSA, we are using four key principles to guide our decision-making, structure our operations, and steer our work.

First, we are making security investments and operational decisions based on risk/value analysis. That means that we are assessing risks based not only on threat and vulnerability, but on the potential consequences of a particular threat to people, transportation assets, and the economy. We will also assess and undertake risk management and risk mitigation measures based on how they affect the total transportation network risk.

Like all of you, we must make choices about how we use our resources – from how we invest our research and development funds to what our screeners spend time looking for.

Today’s reality is that the terrorist threat is shifting to explosives. ICAO recognized this emerging danger when it called for implementation of a 100 percent hold baggage screening standard by January 1st, 2006. That standard is intended to ensure that any explosives that are concealed in checked baggage are not placed in the hold of an aircraft. The 189 member States of ICAO are expected to meet this requirement by employing realistic, reliable mechanisms for screening every bag for explosives before it is loaded onto an originating international flight.

The challenge facing State regulators is to provide or require the best detection and screening methods available to protect the traveling public. As you know, screening checked baggage requires a high commitment of manpower and resources to detect a small quantity of explosives that may be well-concealed among the millions of checked bags that are flown every day.

In the U.S., we are focused upon achieving a high probability of detecting of the type and quantity of explosives that present a threat to aviation. On a collective level, we must all ensure that our hold baggage screening processes are capable of detecting this threat. We know that we must prevent people from carrying explosives and dangerous components into the secure areas of airports. In the U.S., this highlights the need to focus our screening resources based on relative risk.

In the four years since 9-11-2001, a broad range of interconnected measures have been established, and in combination these measures now provide effective security against threats directed at seizing control of aircraft. We must now ask ourselves whether we can be more effective in protecting against explosive threats by using our existing resources differently. Based on the array of other measures, can we, in fact, free up screener resources and time that can be redirected to prevent explosives attacks?

I think we can. All of us have been asked the question: Why are we taking Granny’s {fill in the blank}? Can’t we focus on a more dangerous threat? I think it makes sense to ask ourselves that question.

Let’s be clear … the question is not: “Can Granny’s object be used by terrorists?” The answer to that question in every case is, “Yes.”

The better question might be: “Can we prevent a more dangerous attack by redirecting the resources we now expend to find these less dangerous items?”

At TSA, we are looking closely at what consumes our valuable screener resources. The short answer is, we are opening a lot of bags to take away objects that may not pose a great risk. We are starting to see a disproportionate amount of our resources going to line-slowing bag searches directed at objects that do not pose a real threat of taking control of an aircraft.

It makes sense to me that we should investigate whether reducing the number of less dangerous items on the prohibited list will allow us to focus the time and attention of our screeners on more serious security risks, such as explosive detection. By the same token, I would not advocate removing items like ice picks from the prohibited list. The fact is, we do not open many bags to remove smuggled ice picks, so removing them from the prohibited list would not save many resources.

As you know, one year after the events of September 11th, IATA proposed the development of a coordinated list of prohibited items for use by air carriers. At the time, member air carriers were receiving complaints from customers about having items confiscated at screening checkpoints that had been permitted on the originating leg of their journey. The U.S. and Canada supported the idea, and ICAO adopted a single list of prohibited items that was based on lists used by a number of countries and organizations. That list reflected the terrorist threat as we understood it at the time.

Today, most of us use a list that is similar to ICAO’s, but minor differences remain. It may not be realistic to expect that every country will use precisely the same restrictions for dangerous articles, but I believe it is time to for us to re-examine the basic list.

I have asked our international office to work closely with IATA and ICAO, as we consider potential changes to our prohibited items list. Let’s make sure that the items we look for in our screening process match our view of the threat to civil aviation today. And let’s make sure that they reflect a risk/value approach to the allocation of resources to counter that threat.

The second principle guiding our work is to avoid giving terrorists or potential terrorists an advantage based on our own predictability. We are working to deploy resources – whether they are canine teams, screeners, air marshals, or inspectors – and establish protocols flexibly based on risk, so that terrorists cannot use the predictability of security measures to their advantage in planning or carrying out a threat.

This may mean changing or adding to inspection routines on a daily or hourly basis to introduce uncertainty into terrorist planning efforts. This can be done without confusing passengers or our employees. Our goal is to increase complexity for terrorists, and decrease it for passengers.

Let’s take the airport environment as an example. If we use exactly the same security protocols everywhere, every time, terrorists can figure out exactly what to expect and how to defeat our efforts. Add an element of unpredictability -- long used in security applications like cryptography, or changing travel routes so as not to be predictable – and you have a low-cost, highly effective way to take back control. If terrorists have been working toward a plan with a certain set of expectations, unpredictable change can effectively disrupt those efforts and provide an additional layer of security.

So, increasing the use of unpredictable measures -- using randomness as a tool -- is something we should all pursue as we anticipate the unexpected. To this end, in the U.S., we are changing and varying security measures on cargo and securing the SIDA area, as well as around perimeters and in the non-secure side of passenger terminals. We are introducing the use of canine teams at different points in the security process and at different times of day. And we are looking at other ways to interrupt terrorist planning efforts by making security less predictable.

The third principle is to focus our security measures on the terrorist, as well as the instrument of the threat. Enhancing and expanding techniques to identify suspicious persons or to detect explosive devices, guns, knives, and other dangerous articles is important and necessary.

To most travelers, the clearest manifestation of our effort to keep them safe is at the screening checkpoint. However, the strongest defense is to detect the terrorist well before an attempted attack is launched. The security checkpoint may be our last opportunity to stop a terrorist.

Just as important is the work we do before the checkpoint to identify people who may seek to do harm. This is why we view watch-list checking as such an important part of our joint responsibility. A coordinated, interagency intelligence collection and analysis effort must stand as the first line of defense.

We also appreciate and depend on vigorous suspicious incident reporting from industry employees and passengers, as well as traditional law enforcement. Effective dissemination of timely intelligence products to those who need them is vital.

With that in mind, we continue to refine our Secure Flight and Registered Traveler programs to help us distinguish those who may pose a threat from those who do not. We take very seriously our responsibilities to safe-guard personal information, and are, in fact, seeking design techniques that would sharply limit any opportunity for a privacy problem. And we are beginning to test training programs that will help security personnel identify clues that indicate the need for further screening.

Finally, in order to respond more effectively to the changing threat environment, we are committed to building new security networks and taking advantage of existing ones. As you may know, we are restructuring TSA to facilitate building information sharing networks in every transportation sector – rail, transit, maritime, pipelines, and trucking, as well as aviation. Not only will we work more closely with stakeholders in these industries, we will also renew our emphasis on sharing intelligence, capacity and technology with other law enforcement, intelligence gathering and security agencies at every level of government.

We seek to create a more robust, distributed network of security systems to protect America and to do our part for our global partners. In that effort, we are rededicating ourselves to building effective communication networks with all of our stakeholders – in communities, at the State and Federal level within the U.S. and internationally.

We are building these communication networks into our organizational structure – reflecting the fact that information management and effective communication must be a core competency of our agency.

Frankly, I never want to be in a position where I am, in effect, trying to “sell” a new policy or procedure to our stakeholders. I expect our managers at every level to have daily interaction with our partners and stakeholders – in the U.S. and internationally – so that we can work together to find solutions that strengthen our collective security.

We look forward to our continued work with the international aviation community to apply the lessons of the past to an unpredictable future. Together, we will think beyond past patterns and events. We will evaluate risks and consequences, factor in known and unknown terrorism threats, and acknowledge in the design of our programs that terrorism is not predictable. We will find ways to apply our security resources to address new threats, and let go of measures that are no longer as cost-effective. We will build in flexibility, randomness, and responsiveness, so that we are not predictable. And we will connect the dots between people and behavior; and ensure that we develop and nurture relationships and communication structures so that those dots are always connected.

Together, we will build even stronger webs of security…in anticipation of the unexpected.