TSA Press Office
Testimony & Speeches
Good morning, it is a great pleasure for me to join you at this Transportation and Terrorism Conference. My thanks to Bob Mueller and the FBI for sponsoring this important gathering of counter-terrorism professionals. It is an honor for TSA to participate as co-host.
Thank you to Bill Arrington for your leadership in arranging TSA's participation in the conference. I also hope many of you have met Bob Bray, who is here today. He's TSA's Assistant Administrator for Law Enforcement and the Director of the Federal Air Marshal Service. Many of you will be flying out of here with Bob's colleagues.
There are several other members of TSA's senior leadership team with us during the conference and I hope you will get a chance to visit with them during the week. You can easily pick them out in a crowd — they are the ones carrying their shoes.
My thanks to each of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules and important duties to come together in New York on behalf of our common mission of securing our nations and our vital transportation systems.
As you all well know, our jobs involve busy schedules. Consider that at this hour, and every day, 4 million people are making their way into New York using public transportation. More than 400 flights are in the air, having left Europe earlier today, and every day, inbound to the United States. Over 500,000 passengers so far this morning, and every morning, have been screened at TSA security checkpoints. Over a million more passengers will follow them today, and every day. Considering that it is only 8 a.m., that's quite a target package. And those targets, our citizens and our global transportation system, are never still, they are out there in motion - every day.
It's quite a job to protect all of that, every day. That's our job. For us, terrorism is not a theoretical discussion; it is not a policy debate. It is reality in real time.
Here are the realities today:
- Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorists have everything they need to conduct multiple, sophisticated attacks: resources, time, technical capacity, and people, including western operatives with clean backgrounds.
- Transportation targets remain at or near the center of their bulls-eye.
- For us to stop them, teamwork is the number one success factor.
- Teamwork, partnership, sharing — up, down and across organizations is a requirement.
Terrorists know no boundaries; terrorists obey no rules. To them, borders represent opportunities to exploit gaps between countries or organizations; rules restrict only us. To terrorists, teamwork is their worst nightmare. And that is what we're giving them.
At this hour, The National Counter Terrorism Center is hosting a secure video conference with the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA, State Department, Department of Defense, DHS, and TSA. They are, right now, discussing this morning's intel — sharing information and insights as well as coordinating action.
I will be on that call tomorrow and every day that I am in Washington. I often see Art Cummings, who may be here with you tomorrow, in the FBI section of the video screen. For those of us at TSA, that is how our day starts, connecting with our partners, learning, sharing, and acting together. This is how we stay ahead of terrorists; we keep them off balance, we frustrate their planning. Staying ahead of them means acting, but not just acting alone. It requires us to act together, in concert.
Our common goal aims to identify and stop a terrorist threat before it hits. If their strength is that they have no deadlines, rules, or borders, ours is that this is our turf, there are a lot of us, and we have a lot of resources. Those are effective advantages — if we use them together.
We can not be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking that a set of static, sensible rules, diligently applied, will remain effective in the face of enemies who—with all the time in the world — actively conspire to beat them.
As we have seen a number of times, including with the 2006 liquid explosives plot, the terrorist planner designs an attack around the barriers and rules that we have erected. Unpredictable, non-linear terrorist risk can only be successfully met if we deny our enemies a static and predictable target. To that end, we need strong, proactive relationships with our partners throughout the law enforcement, intelligence, and global transportation communities.
I am pleased to share the podium with Linda Wilson from TransSec in the UK this morning. Linda and her colleagues are TSA's close partner and valuable friend.
Our current challenge is to stay connected, and to engage in efficient, effective, and sustainable security activities. By introducing randomness into our protocols — by adding layers of security such as Travel Document Checkers and Behavior Detection Officers — we strengthen our ability to identify and disrupt the threats we face and provide better security. New training will empower our workforce, our Transportation Security Officers, Behavior Detection Officers and managers to be more engaged, without being constrained by a rigid, inflexible Standard Operating Procedure. Across the board, around the world — whether it's in general aviation, commercial aviation, cargo, maritime, surface, and frankly any of the aspects of transportation security overall—is the need, in the face of an adaptive enemy, to put in place security measures that terrorists cannot reliably plan against. We must not allow terrorists to be certain of what they will find when they launch an attack.
TSA's strategy is to start with intelligence — partner with law enforcement, airports, our international colleagues and industry partners, and the public—and use security measures that are flexible, widely deployable, mobile, and layered to cover the inevitable gaps that exist or develop in our complex, open transportation network.
You are familiar with TSA's Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR) teams that move around in any part of the transportation environment and show up without being announced. Ray Kelly mentioned them yesterday. They are a good example of security activity that brings together assets from a variety of state, local, and federal entities in coordinated action. We've done over a thousand VIPR operations now including over five hundred this year alone.
Today, we are conducting a VIPR operation with the New York State Police to look at trucks moving on the New York State Thruway. This is a very good counter terrorism package. We have law enforcement, local law enforcement, canines, our regulatory inspectors, and Behavior Detection Officers working together. And for the first time in 2008, working with our international partners, we've had Behavior Detection Officers pair with security officers from other countries to operate jointly outside of the United States. Another way TSA partners in counter terrorism is through our participation in Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) around the country. TSA is currently participating in 56 JTTFs and we are getting a very high rate of return on that investment.
And when the FBI, NSA, CIA, NYPD, international colleagues, or anybody else discovers someone plotting an attack, it is TSA's responsibility to keep those who are a threat to aviation off of airplanes. Watchlists keep known terrorists off airplanes. That's why we have a No Fly list. When someone is identified as a No Fly, we have to make sure they don't get on that plane.
We are also sensitive to ordinary passengers being inconvenienced by the process. That is why Secretary Chertoff announced in April that we were giving flexibility to airlines to create a system to verify and securely store a passenger's date of birth to clear up watchlist misidentifications.
Until Secure Flight is operational sometime next year, airlines need to step up and make sure that ordinary passengers don't end up believing that because of an airline's inability to properly sort the watch-lists against their passenger records, that these passengers are somehow watch-listed by the government. We cannot allow an airline's decision not to invest in sorting software hurt the public's confidence in the watchlists — which are the product of just the kind of effective law enforcement and intelligence teamwork that we have been talking about.
Counter terrorism today is a team activity. The stakes are so high and the potential targets — particularly transportation targets — so varied, that unless all of us are connected, informed, and coordinated in our activities we are wasting resources and time. And we do not have time to waste. The clock is ticking.
Time, all too often in our country, has allowed many to forget and move on. Time, for the terrorist, is to prepare and wait for the perfect moment to attack.
As we begin our day in New York, it is already afternoon in the Al Qaeda training camps. As we get underway this Wednesday morning, operatives are in motion, preparations are in progress. They are moving toward us step by step, assembling the pieces they need to conduct their attacks. What they don't know, what they cannot predict, is the level of intensity they face in America's front-line against terror. We are using this time to go on offense. We are using this time to train, to equip, to connect with each other. Because if we are together, rather than sitting and waiting while the clock is ticking, we will be on offense, up and moving together to make that clock tick against them.
Thank you for your partnership, thank you for being here, and most of all thank you for your service to our citizens.