by Secretary Tom Ridge at the Joint Session of the Radio &
Television News Directors and Network Broadcasters Associations
Vegas, NV) Apr. 19, 2004 – SECRETARY RIDGE: Thank you. Every single
day since September 11, 2001, you have kept America informed about
this century’s greatest threat to the world community. Whether
getting ready for work, going to school or just tuning into a
favorite broadcaster any hour of the day, America has listened
and learned about international terrorism from you.
knows some of the terrorists by name but still cannot comprehend
such evil motives. We are repulsed by their savage methods and
painfully aware of their innocent victims.
America and around the world, you’ve also reported the clear
and collective resolve of people who value freedom over fear…
security over senseless destruction. We have sent the terrorists
a clear and unmistakable message – you are not freedom fighters;
you are murderers, civilization’s collective shame. On this
issue, the world has come together and the world is coming after
And, as the
eyes and ears of democracy, you often find yourself on the front
lines of this fight. As Barbara Cochran has so wisely noted, “Journalists,
like police and firefighters, rush toward danger, not away from
it.” You play a critical and special role in free societies.
In an earlier
era, Alexis de Tocqueville said the press in America does not
“just guarantee liberty; it maintains civilization.”
Today, in an era of 24-hour satellite coverage and instant Internet
communication, that is no less true. But there are few existing
blueprints for covering terrorism,
How do we
inform the public without alarming them? Can we make people aware
of the terrorist threat and, at the same time, empower them to
prepare for it? It is a challenge we face at the Department of
Homeland Security every day. I suspect it’s a challenge
you face in your newsrooms as well.
We again saw
the damage wrought by those who make loss of life their number
one goal one month ago in Madrid. Terrorists struck innocent people
only days before the free and democratic elections in Spain.
In this country,
we soon enter a season that is rich with symbolic opportunities
for the terrorists to try to shake our will. Americans will dedicate
the World War II Memorial in Washington; host International Monetary
Fund meetings in Washington, D.C. and the G-8 Summit in Georgia;
celebrate Independence Day; travel to Athens for the Olympics;
hold political conventions in Boston and New York; followed, of
course, by our own elections, the traditional holidays and inaugural
are resolute, but we are more so. They plan and prepare — and
so must we. At this time we do not have specific, credible threat
information around any of these events. But we do have common
sense. And, we don’t need a change in the threat level to
With so many
symbolic gatherings in the next few months, we must be aggressive.
These targets of opportunity for the terrorists are opportunities
that can’t be missed to tighten our security. We will increase
our vigilance, accelerate the reduction of our vulnerabilities,
and enhance our response capabilities so that they are poised
and ready. There’s a lot going on around the country already.
And wherever possible, we will ratchet it up.
will be given to areas of concern such as rail and air security,
hazardous materials shipments, chemical facilities, and protection
of the electrical grid, among others.
of Homeland Security will lead a working group of federal agencies
that will oversee this effort. This group will reach out to mayors,
Governors and officials at every level of government, as well
as the private sector.
forged among Homeland Security professionals in the last two and
a half years has created a force multiplier to protect communities
countrywide. This force works to improve the protection of our
nation every day.
line is that homeland security is not about one Department, one
level of government or one organization. It is a national call
to action, a philosophy of shared responsibility, shared accountability,
and shared leadership.
When the terrorist
threat is directed at an entire nation, only an entire nation,
working in close cooperation, can deter that threat. That same
spirit of integration has guided the Media Security and Reliability
Council. Your industry’s leadership has produced some very
sound recommendations that will help secure your facilities and
infrastructure and ensure the continuous flow of information to
the public in times of crisis.
of this effort is that it is industry-driven, taps into the unique
expertise that only you can provide. And that is the example we
encourage the private sector as a whole to follow. The department
looks forward to working with the Council as you implement and
build on your recommendations.
organizations, we constantly review our emergency response procedures
to strengthen them. And, we run and participate in training exercises
at all levels of government to find the gaps and plug them.
Many of you
followed TOPOFF II, the largest terrorist exercise in American
history, involving the simulated explosion of a radiological device
in Seattle, and a simulated outbreak of pneumonic plague around
One of the
important reminders from TOPOFF II was that effective communication
is the linchpin for efficient performance. As part of the drill,
we formed a Video News Network to engage our crisis communication
team. Our After-Action report noted that “A consistent message
to the public from incident command and the public health and
medical communities is critical.”
We have many
initiatives underway to ensure that timely, accurate information
is communicated during a crisis. Among these programs, we will
partner with the National Academies of Science and the Radio and
Television News Directors Foundation to co-host 10 regional exercises
that will bring together members of the media and government public
information officers. The goal of these sessions is to strengthen
our emergency capabilities.
It has been
13 months since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
In a sense, DHS became the largest IPO ever on March 1, 2003.
We became a “public sector offering” staked in the
security of our country and, as such, everyone in the country,
and the world, having a stake in its success.
of the greatest challenges of our first year was that we had to
not only get the department up and running operationally — meaning
consolidate systems, integrate servers, and get a stapler on every
and foremost, we had to strengthen and extend the depth and breadth
of our nation’s protective measures, particularly at our
airports, seaports and borders. We unified the border inspection
process, presenting “one face” at the border, which
improved employee morale and service and reduced delays.
languishing for decades, a nationwide biometrics-based entry-exit
visa check system is now reality after just eight months. Today,
US-VISIT is stopping criminals and violators in their tracks at
our air and seaports while allowing legitimate travelers and visitors
to cross with little or no delay. Furthermore, by judging people
based on their individual behavior and record, we can reduce our
reliance on more arbitrary and unfair standards, such as nationality.
aviation security from the curb to the cockpit by hiring and training
tens of thousands of screeners on the ground, deploying thousands
of federal air marshals in the skies, tightening security for
air cargo and securing all cockpit doors.
On the seas,
we made major improvements as well. We expanded our Container
Security Initiative, or CSI. As I speak, U.S. inspectors are in
Rotterdam, Singapore, Hong Kong and more than a dozen more ports
of trade, working to inspect and label cargo long before it reaches
American shores. It’s part of our “layered”
approach to improving the security of Americans.
We also created
a powerful two-way flow of information with our state, local and
tribal partners, through secure videoconferencing, expanded security
clearances and the shared language of the Homeland Security Advisory
System. It paid off last year as we improved our collective response
to wildfires, hurricanes and the blackout. It paid off once again
in December as our nation went to high alert status and we acted
in a highly coordinated fashion to deter the threat.
work remains to be done, I can confidently state that as a nation
we are more secure and far better prepared today than we were
two years ago.
we will build on that progress. We will challenge ourselves and
our partners to take their commitment and already extraordinary
efforts to the next level – so we can further expand and
push a vast agenda for a truly integrated homeland security effort
– so that we can lay the foundation of homeland security
for future years.
priority we set, I have added a call to action to our employees,
our citizens and our partners in the public and private sector
to work with us to achieve these goals.
the Department will work to strengthen vertical communication
systems and significantly increase protections around our nation’s
most vital assets – our bridges and water supplies, telecommunications
and cyber-systems, chemical and nuclear facilities, hospitals
and laboratories, food processing systems and more.
We will establish
secure, real-time communications between all 50 states and the
territories, install secure videoconferencing to all Governors’
offices, and identify technical specifications to establish baseline
interoperability of communications for first responders.
We will also
expand our nationwide citizen preparedness initiative, the “Ready”
campaign, which launched last year in partnership with the Advertising
Council. We thank those stations who ran the public service announcements,
and I am pleased to report that thousands of Americans have responded
and taken the steps to prepare themselves and their families for
next year, we will expand the existing campaign by launching two
new citizen preparedness endeavors: Ready for Business and Ready
Our goal is
that at least half of all Americans will take the steps to be
better prepared by the end of 2004.
We will also
– by year’s end – create a unified, national
critical infrastructure database to identify vulnerabilities so
we may better secure our symbols of freedom and the vast, complex
systems that power them. We seek real-time, situational awareness
across both physical borders and agency boundaries, in all directions,
both vertically and horizontally. We will do everything we can
to keep the American economy strong and the American way of life
We are not
in the business of protecting our freedom only to forsake it.
Our vision statement reflects our emphasis: “Preserving
our freedoms, protecting America….we secure our homeland.”
After all, the terrorists have targeted both our people and our
way of life.
goes beyond preventing terrorist attacks and securing our borders
and ports. It includes “welcoming lawful immigrants and
visitors” and “promoting the free flow of commerce.”
And, as one of freedom’s greatest champions, the news media
– the producers and writers and reporters in this room —
will always have a vital role to play.
remains very real – even if other issues may temporarily
eclipse it in the public mind. At those times your reporting becomes
more important, not less.
once said that “our government rests in public opinion.”
the public and asking insightful questions of its leaders, the
media shapes and molds public opinion. Sometimes politicians complain
about it. But it is vital to a functioning and fully aware democracy.
you motivates us – the desire to never again have to report
a catastrophe such as we experienced on September 11, 2001. As
an open, welcoming nation, we recognize that we can never be 100
percent secure against terrorist attacks. But we will never succumb
to despair. There is the old maxim: strength in numbers. And if
there is any lesson we learned from 9-11, it is that freedom’s
greatest companion is fellowship, unity – the integration
of a nation – everyone pledged to freedom’s cause,
everyone its protector.
We are anything
but powerless against the threat. On the contrary, if we act together,
we will be empowered to overcome it. Together, you and I, in our
very different roles, will work to inform and educate our fellow
citizens – and ourselves – and to strengthen this
fellowship, this nation, this idea we call the United States of