Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Bad Is It For Canada

Remember the smears by Canada against Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary of Homeland Security. What a dumb and foolish strategy. It did nothing more than increase President Obama's distrust of Canada after NAFTA-gate.

Hmmm, the tactic sounds similar to the approach being undertaken against Matty Moroun these days too. I wonder who is quarterbacking that smear campaign.

From Canada's Messenger, Canwest's National Post newspaper. Oh you remember who the Chair of Canwest is don't you and that the Windsor Star is part of that chain:
  • "The border for dummies

    Can someone please tell us how U. S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano got her job? She appears to be about as knowledgeable about border issues as a late-night radio call-in yahoo."

  • Don Martin: Napolitano makes Bush administration look well informed

    This is borderline insanity.

    The most worrisome American official confronting Canada today is a former Arizona governor who thinks the U.S. northern border, which she’s only flown over and never actually crossed on the ground, is a security threat on par with the drug-running, immigrant-smuggling, terrorist-sneaking border wall with Mexico.

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is moving unapologetically forward on beefed-up border staffing and enhanced documentation requirements that will make Canadians and travelling Americans yearn for the security paranoia of the George W. Bush administration.

    Ms. Napolitano’s brief interview with the CBC this week was confirmation we’re dealing with an irrational senior U.S. official who can’t differentiate between a secure border linking the world’s largest trading partners and one that’s a giant sucking sound for jobs going south and what’s been described as an ‘invasion’ of desperate Mexicans illegally sneaking north."

    "Obsessed with the border, Napolitano comes undone

    In a widely linked editorial in the Wednesday issue of the National Post, our ed board wondered how U. S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano got her job?"

Great tactic...if it worked and President Obama got rid of her. Horrific tactic if it did not and President Obama kept her on. As he did!

Just take a look at what can happen to Canada respecting border crossings and tell me that you still believe that a DRIC Bridge has any hope of being built. The threats are real too when security trumps trade.

I have made it easier for you to read too by setting out each topic in yellow type below:

Testimony of Secretary Napolitano before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, "Transportation Security Challenges Post-9/11"

Release Date: December 2, 2009

Getting rid of the Secretary to make Canada happy

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chair, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee: Anyway, we have enormous respect for you. I respect you very much. Over the last eight years, your department has experienced a lot of growing pains. I know you are the right person to move the agency forward. I'm totally confident of that. I look forward to being your partner -- I think we all do -- in solving top-security challenges...

I totally thank you for being here. It's very important to us as a committee. We respect what you're doing and we want to be your partner.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ): Secretary Napolitano, we are very comforted by the fact that you're in charge there. You come with a great record of public service and you've shown a firm hand since you're here.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Madame Secretary, first of all two compliments.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Madame Secretary, for your briefing and your service to our country.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing, and it's great to see my former colleague, former gubernatorial colleague, Secretary Napolitano, and congratulations, and I echo some of my colleagues' earlier comments about the good job you're doing.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary, welcome. Good to see you here. Look forward to continue working with you

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Secretary Napolitano, thank you for being here and thank you for your hard work and dedication. I think the president chose well when he put you into this position, and your background and history and experience I'm sure has come into use every single day that you've been in this position.

Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for being here. I was just thinking of how full your plate is with H1N1 and the many other issues that you've had -- the Fort Hood shooting investigation and a lot of other ongoing changes with our security. So I thank you for your leadership

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing. Good to see you here, Secretary Napolitano. We both share the Southwest as home and I think you're doing an excellent job with a very, very difficult department there to manage.

Fingerprinting people entering and leaving the US could kill tourist traffic

"Sen. Isakson: And lastly, a question. On the US-VISIT program, we require biometrics, primarily in the form of fingerprints, which are validated when someone comes into the United States by air at the US-VISIT program. It is my understanding that it is the third phase of the program is getting ready to be announced, which will also require, in terms of airport -- leaving the country, a revalidation of the fingerprint to ensure the person leaving is the person, in fact, that is supposed to be leaving.

But that's not going to be required at our seaports or at our border crossings with Canada and Mexico on the ground. And 80 percent of the people that come to the United States come either by sea or by those -- the Canadian border or the Mexican border, as I'm told. Why would we not check those borders as well, when they leave, to validate that the person leaving is in fact the person that we think they are?

Sec. Napolitano: Senator I'll get back to you, but let me just -- my educated guess is that with respect to the Mexico and Canadian travelers, that the volume, in terms of number of passengers and number of lanes is such that the logistics of employing that for the exiting visitors at those land ports would be prohibitive. And that's really the bulk of what we're talking about."

Goodbye to Canada's ambitious Pacific and Atlantic gateways efforts and the Edgar (aka Eddie) airport transportation hub. And as for perimeter security, keep on dreaming

Sen. Cantwell: A second issue, if I could, is obviously that that U.S.-Canadian border is very important for shipping and we've had by colleagues talk about security and safety of cargo and container traffic. What are we doing to help ensure that all of North America adopts a regime for border security so that we don't have Asian traffic deciding to go to Canada because they can skip the regime that the United States sets up for border security, only to have that cargo travel all the way across the country and maybe enter, you know, someplace else that doesn't have that border security that you are establishing? So how do we get that North America regime established?

Sec. Napolitano: Well, if you're talking about, Senator, having almost like a perimeter policy around the continent, obviously that's somewhat difficult but I mean --

Sen. Cantwell: I'm saying there's billions of dollars of business -- of cargo container going in. We're probably, you know, 20 percent of all traffic coming from China. Now, if just up the road in Vancouver they decide they're not going to -- (inaudible) -- a security regime and it's cheaper and faster to go through Vancouver, all that traffic is going to go there and the U.S. is going to lose that transportation business. So what are we doing to help make sure that those ports adopt the same kind of regimes?

Sec. Napolitano: Well, I think, Senator, we are -- I am meeting regularly with my colleague -- my counterpart on the Canadian side -- as to what is necessary for security at those ports because there are certain things that are constants with respect to be it integrated port security, be it air security, be it land-border security. There are certain things that need to be done and need to be accomplished. But there are differences and there are very real differences between the two countries and I think part of that gets beyond my lane and gets into other departments in terms of negotiations as well."

Instead of blaming the US, is Canada the problem:

[From above] Sec. Napolitano: I am meeting regularly with my colleague -- my counterpart on the Canadian side -- as to what is necessary for security... There are certain things that need to be done and need to be accomplished. But there are differences and there are very real differences between the two countries

Sen. Klobuchar: Exactly. I'm actually going to mostly focus on the Secure Watch issue and some of the terrorist watch lists and the misidentifications on those lists but I wanted to start with one quick question about the Canadian baggage rescreening, and this is something that affects my state. We have a state-of-the-art airport and the requirement that checked luggage at appropriately-cleared Canadian airport facilities be rescreened before the transfer to a U.S.-based connecting flight it has frequently caused delayed connections for our passengers arriving (since?) Canada because their baggage has to be physically transported from the arrival. And I know that TSA has been working with Canadian authorities for well over a year to reach an agreement that could put in place new technologies for Canadian baggage screening that would meet our own United States security standards, and I wondered if you have any sense of when that agreement will be reached.

Sec. Napolitano: I know about the issue, I know about the discussions, and I don't know when they will come to a conclusion. But if, Senator, if you're asking me to see if I can prompt them to hurry up, I'll be happy to do so.

Bye, bye DRIC Bridge. A border is a border and there is a need for increased attention to the Canadian border the Secretary said, remember. The US Ambassador got his border crossing information from CBP, part of Janet's Department

"Sen. Hutchison: Thank you.

I wanted to go back to the border wait times. This is something that I know you are familiar with as well, having been the governor of Arizona. And my question is how can you address the border wait times; because there are trucks backed up for miles, taking hours to get through? Because it does make a difference in commerce, and people being willing to come across. How are you going to address it keeping security in mind as well as efficiency of commerce on our land borders?

Sec. Napolitano: Well, a couple of things. First of all, between Fiscal Year '08 and Fiscal Year '09, we actually saw a reduction in wait times, according to the data I have, a 12.3 percent reduction. And the wait times for commercial trucks, and I think that's what you're focused on, Senator, went from in '08 10.6 minutes to 9.3 minutes on the U.S. side of the border.

Where the wait times can add up is on the Mexican side of the border. And so, working with Mexico, they are now establishing their own customs capacity on that side of the border, which I think will do a great deal to resist. Because as you know, when you go through a land port, you're actually going through two borders. You're going through the Mexican side and the U.S. side. So the U.S. side, the wait times have gone down; and I think will continue to go down with our greater use of technology.

Sen. Hutchison: I really am referring to the Mexican side, because that affects so many of our border retailers. And it's commercial, but it's also people who will shop --

Sec. Napolitano: In those areas, indeed. And so, Mexico is now developing its own customs agency and deploying them to the border, which they really had not had before. As well as, as we build out our ports on the northern side of the border, we are working with them to build their infrastructure to match our ports so that they're paired up appropriately.

Sen. Hutchison: So, we do have an ongoing effort to work, to coordinate better the Mexican side with our side. So that we can get some of those wait times down for commerce.

Sec. Napolitano: Yes.

Sen. Hutchison: Okay. It's a big deal on our border. It must have been in Arizona as well. Because border retailers on our side, get a lot of business from that land traffic. And if you have to wait an hour or two, or more sometimes, it's a problem.

Is there something we need to do to increase further customs and also coordination because there has been a complaint that's ongoing for a long time of coordination of just working hours between DEA, Customs and Border Patrol? So that sometimes, one group is off in a coffee break, while the other group is on, but you have to have all of them. And is there an effort in your department to address that kind of coordination to better utilize our resources?

Sec. Napolitano: Senator that coordination should already be occurring, under the direction of who ever is the manager of the port. If you have a specific instance or a specific port where you are getting reports that that is not happening, I hope you would let me know about it; and we will follow-up.

Edgar's airport repair facility plan may be in jeopardy too now

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate you holding the hearing open until I had a chance to get here. I was over in Armed Services as we were dealing with the president's speech on Afghanistan last night and it took awhile for me to get my questioning done there.

I wanted to briefly bring up with you, Secretary Napolitano, something that I have been working on for a number of years now and that is foreign repair stations as it relates to airline maintenance.

I know this is not necessarily in your lane, but in the long run, it needs to be on your radar -- pardon the pun --

Sec. Napolitano: Mm-hmm.

Sen. McCaskill: Because we have increasingly in this country turned to foreign repair stations for not just kicking the tires, but significant maintenance and repair work for our domestic airline industry.

FAA -- it is from the many different hearings in this room we have figured out we're not really sure we certify certain repair stations, that we allow non-certified repair stations to do the work. We're not really sure why we don't have the same kind of standards at foreign repair stations in terms of background checks, in terms of perimeter security.

And I bring it up to you, because I think this is something that we could benefit from you -- your people taking a look at this. We have foreign repair stations doing significant work on some of our airlines in countries that were on the State Department's terrorist watch list.

So meanwhile, I -- with a smile on my face -- get wanded every time I get on an airplane, because I have one artificial knee and they go through my mom's stuff, because she has two artificial knees. We have repair work -- significant repair work being done in places around the globe where I don't think the American people would be comfortable with the level of security and oversight that we're providing them.

And I wanted to bring it up to you, because it's something that I'd worked on and I know we haven't had a chance to visit about it before, but would like your reaction to that and whether or not you think that some of your obligation, as it relates to homeland security, could reach out to at least do an assessment, in your view, whether or not this is something we should be worried about.

Sec. Napolitano: Well, thank you, Senator. And the foreign repair issue really reveals something, which I say often, which is that homeland security does not begin at the borders of the United States. You really have to think of it in a global context and then bring it home, so to speak.

On November the 18th of this year -- so just a few weeks ago -- we issued an actual notice of proposed rulemaking on foreign repair stations. And it builds on the certification requirements that the FAA uses. But it would require such things as making -- requiring that they be open to audits by the Department of Homeland Security on a random and surprise basis. It requires certain types of recordkeeping. It requires certain types of -- other types of checks in the stations themselves.

The comment period on the notice, I think, closes -- I want to say the third week of January. So it is something that has occupied our attention and we're moving forward in that fashion.

Sen. McCaskill: That is terrific.