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How Safe Are We? Homeland Security Since 9/11, with Janet Napolitano

March 26, 2019

CREDIT: Amanda Ghanooni.

JOANNE MYERS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Joanne Myers, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I'd like to thank you for beginning your day with us.

We are extremely honored to welcome Janet Napolitano, a most revered public servant, to this Public Affairs breakfast program. Secretary Napolitano was serving as governor of Arizona—I might add, a border state—when President Obama called to ask her to become secretary of Homeland Security. In agreeing to do so, she became the first woman to hold this position.

To give you a sense of the enormity of this responsibility, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the third largest U.S. government agency with a budget only exceeded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Napolitano left the Obama administration in 2013 to become president of the University of California, a position she currently holds.

Today she will be discussing her book, which was just released today, How Safe Are We?: Homeland Security Since 9/11. In it she pulls back the curtain to demystify what homeland security is all about.

Eighteen years ago the United States wasn't officially engaged in any wars. Few of us had ever heard of al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) didn't even exist. We deported half the number of people we do today. Our surveillance state was a fraction of its current size, and perhaps hardest to believe, we didn't have to take off our shoes to go through airport security. But that was all to change.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, life in the United States as we once knew it was changed forever. The Department of Homeland Security came into being, ushering in a new generation of policies, prioritizing national security, defense, and new attitudes about safety, vigilance, and privacy.

In How Safe Are We? Secretary Napolitano posits that policies established then to protect our borders, respond to natural disasters, and ward off foreign and domestic attacks should now be reexamined in light of current events. In confronting how past security efforts have changed our country and society, our guest takes stock of those changes and asks which policies still work and identifies which policies we need to fix. She also addresses what she sees as our newest and immediate vulnerabilities, such as climate change and cybersecurity threats.

For all of you wanting an insider's view on the state of homeland security since 9/11 and a clear assessment of how safe we really are, please join me in giving a very warm welcome to a very special guest, Secretary Napolitano. Thank you for joining us.

JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, thank you, and good morning, everybody. We're all up. We're all ready to go. I'm so pleased to be with you all this morning to talk about homeland security and to talk about my book, How Safe Are We?

I wrote the book because I think that the public needs to understand what homeland security is and what it is not. It is not a guarantee. It is not a guarantee that we will never be attacked again. It is not a guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen. What homeland security is about is reducing risk and empowering people to know what to do in the event of an attack or a disaster, to make the people of America part of our own homeland security.

I came to this out of a background that was a little bit unconventional. I'd been a lawyer in private practice for about 10 years, and then when Bill Clinton was elected president he appointed me to be the U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona, the chief federal prosecutor.

In that role I really began my introduction to the border and to terrorism because as U.S. attorney for Arizona we had a big role in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. Tim McVeigh, who did the bombing, did all his planning in Kingman, Arizona.

I left the U.S. attorney's office to run for attorney general of Arizona. By then I was 39, I was turning 40, and I had that little itch that I should run for something sometime. This was an open seat, to be the attorney general of Arizona would be a great job.

So I ran, and I was elected as a Democrat in Arizona. Much to everyone's surprise I was elected. I served one term, and then ran for and was elected governor of Arizona.

In my first month as governor—and I talk about this episode in the book—we had two of our prison officers taken hostage at our maximum-security prison. They were held hostage for two weeks in a tower in the middle of the prison yard. The tower was built to be secure in case there was ever a riot in the yard; it was a place the guards could retreat to. We worked that negotiation for two weeks. Actually, Dora Schriro is here with me today, and she was our newly appointed but not yet confirmed head of the Department of Corrections at that time. We were able to get everyone out alive. Again, as we got into the second week there were a lot of suspicions that we wouldn't be able to achieve that, but we did and moved on.

I dealt with the border. I dealt with a rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona because there had been a real failure to secure the border of Arizona and Mexico.

Also, you deal with a lot of different things when you are a governor, and one of the pleasures I had was meeting Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he gave one of the best speeches in modern political history and really launched his presidential race. I was actually the speaker right in front of Barack Obama, which is much better than being the speaker after Barack Obama, I must say. And I campaigned heavily for Obama.

When he was elected I was midway through my second term as governor, term-limited, and he called and asked me to serve as his secretary of Homeland Security. I had experience with the border, I had experience with immigration, I had experience with natural disasters and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Every governor has those kinds of experiences. So I left Arizona to become the third secretary of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security, created in the wake of the attack of 9/11, combined 22-odd federal agencies and created some new ones, all under one umbrella. It has broad responsibilities. It has responsibilities for land border security, our coastal borders with the Coast Guard, our air security via the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It has responsibility for cybersecurity for our nation's critical infrastructure.

If there is a pandemic in the United States and all the agencies of the federal government need to be mobilized to deal with a pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security has that responsibility. Indeed, shortly after taking office we had the H1N1 flu that we all feared could be a pandemic. It didn't turn out to have the kind of mortality rate that a pandemic can have, but we didn't know that at the time.

It also is responsible for disaster response and recovery because FEMA is part and parcel of the Department of Homeland Security.

One of the things about the Department of Homeland Security that is not well-recognized is its international role. Homeland security, if you wait until something gets to our borders, if you wait until someone is on a plane en route to the United States, if you wait and don't share intelligence and don't have personnel deployed in countries of the world, you've oftentimes waited too long. As secretary I visited some 42 different countries and negotiated all kinds of agreements about air passenger records, about port security, about borders and border security, and that was part of homeland security. I think that would be of interest to this group because I know that this group is interested in our role internationally.

It's one of the things that makes me I'll say nervous about an "America First" approach to the world because where security is concerned it really is dependent upon international organizations, international exchanges of information, and strong alliances.

For example, we were tipped off by a British agent about a conspiracy to hide explosives in printer toner cartridges that started their shipment in Yemen. They were going to go through London, and inside those toner cartridges were explosives that would then be put into the cargo holds of airplanes. In response to that, we took action to improve to a large degree the security of cargo on airplanes. That's the kind of information flow that is really the coin of the realm where we're talking about the prevention of a terrorist act reoccurring in the United States.

One of the things that I think where homeland security is concerned is that we have to distinguish between security and security theater. We have to be able to identify the real risks that we confront as a country versus things that are not real risks—they may be problems, they may be management challenges, but they're not risks to the safety of Americans. If I could illustrate that, I think real risks to the United States now are risks associated with climate change and the extreme weather events caused by climate. I think real risks involve our cybersecurity, the protection of our critical infrastructure.

Indeed, if there's one undisputed finding out of the Mueller investigation, it's that the Russians were all over our 2016 election. They were hacking the Clinton campaign, they were releasing emails, they were planting false and deceptive stories in social media, all in an effort to disadvantage Hillary Clinton and to advantage now-President Trump.

I think if a foreign power is directly interfering in your democratic elections that is a threat to homeland security. I can't think of anything actually in a way more fundamental.

Climate, cyber, then mass gun violence, sometimes motivated by terrorist ideology—and the ideology can most frequently be tied to far-right-wing extremism, sometimes tied to no ideology at all, sometimes tied to pathology. Those three things I think are the real risks that the Department really should be focused on.

In contrast, what is not a real risk is the conditions of the Southwest border. Now I know that border very well. I actually grew up in New Mexico. I spent most of my adult life in Arizona, and now I'm in California. All three are border states. I have walked that border, I have ridden it by horseback, I have flown over it in aircraft—planes, helicopters, you name it. I really know that border. And I will say that the border now is so much more secure than it was in the early years when I was governor. We've seen a great expansion in the number of Border Patrol agents, we've seen additions in technology—sensors, tunnel detection equipment. We've seen air cover over the border.

When you think about the border, it's 1,940 miles, and there are ports of entry along the border, so between the border we are so much more secure than we were in the past, and the numbers show it. By the end of the Obama administration we had driven illegal crossings through that border down to 40- to 45-year lows.

Real border protection means making sure that those strategies—the manpower, the technology, and the like—are maintained and sustained between the ports of entry and that we continue to bolster our activities at the actual ports of entry, our ability to effectively x-ray trucks as they're coming through, vehicles as they're coming through so we can identify compartments where narcotics could be hidden because as we know most illegal narcotics enter the country not between the ports but through the ports.

I say this to illustrate why building a wall along the border is not real homeland security. It is a symbol, it is not a strategy. Real homeland security requires strategic thinking.

The issue now is the arrival at the border of families with children who are claiming asylum. They primarily come from Central America. To me the proper approach there is not separating children from families, not putting everybody into detention, but to, as I think about it, flood the zone with the rule of law, flood the zone with immigration judges so that hearings can be promptly scheduled and held, apply the law as it was intended, apply the law so that those fleeing gang violence and those kinds of dangers can find asylum in the United States.

The overemphasis on building a wall I think is not real homeland security. I think real homeland security, as I've mentioned, is a strategy.

On cyber, this is an extraordinarily complicated issue. There are any number of federal agencies that have some jurisdiction over cyber, and indeed most of our nation's critical infrastructure—our utilities, our financial systems, our water systems, and the like—are held by the private sector, and so they need to be active partners in cybersecurity.

I think about it in a way after the attacks of 9/11 there was a commission formed to analyze, well, how did that attack occur? They brought together 10 really leading figures in America to analyze what happened on 9/11 and how we could prevent it from happening again. One of the things that the commission found was that there had been a failure of imagination, that there had been all these red flags, but nobody had had the imagination to conceive that if you put them together you could weaponize aircraft and fly them into iconic buildings like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

I think we're in the same situation now where cyber is concerned. We have all kinds of attacks that we know about, hacks that we know about, some by state actors, foreign countries, some by groups that are associated with state actors, and some by individuals, but we have not put them together in a cohesive, comprehensive cybersecurity structure for the country.

In my book I argue that we should actually have kind of a pre-9/11, as it were, commission to really bring together this extraordinarily complicated subject and see if we can set some national standards, incentivize the private sector to meet those national standards, and organize clearly the jurisdiction of federal agencies: Who has responsibility for detecting threats in terms of attribution? Who has responsibility for protecting all of the nation's critical infrastructure? Is it only DHS? Does it also involve the Department of Commerce or Health and Human Services, and so forth? You can see the questions domino-ing after you ask them. It seems to me that rather than sitting back and waiting for the next cyberattack we need to be more proactive.

One of the things we need to do is engage internationally because we know cyber does not respect national borders. This is an international phenomenon, and we live in a cyber age.

So we need to re-engage with our international allies and come to some common agreement about: What constitutes an act of cyberwarfare? What are appropriate sanctions, depending on the degree of attack or harm that is caused or intended to be caused? These are the kinds of questions that we need to be asking ourselves.

Then, turning to the issue of gun violence and mass gun violence. This is one that is really so troublesome because we don't really have good analytics as to what actually triggers someone to commit an act like the shooter in Las Vegas. What triggered the young person in Parkland? What triggered the couple in San Bernardino? We need in part to look at this almost like a public health issue in terms of identifying those early signals again that could allow early intervention and prevention.

Then the issue of the kinds of weapons that individuals can obtain and the standards that they have to meet to obtain them . . . we are a Second Amendment country. We are a country that allows people to purchase and to have guns. That's part of our Constitution. But what kinds of guns? What kinds of ammunition magazines? How do you use a bump stock to convert a weapon into something that can shoot and kill so many people so rapidly as occurred in Las Vegas? That's what we need to have a conversation about as a country.

I'll close with the last—and I don't know if this is a risk, but it is certainly an issue that confronts the Department of Homeland Security every day, and that is the question of immigration and immigration enforcement. The nation's immigration laws are sorely in need of updating and reform. The last time they really were reformed was 1986. Ronald Reagan was president. They do not match our current values. They don't match our current economic needs. And yet, we are charged—I was charged as secretary—with enforcing that law.

One of the things we were not able to accomplish during the Obama administration is comprehensive immigration reform, but I will tell you that until we can deal with that as a country, until the Congress can deal with it, it will continue to be a toxic issue, and it will cause passions on both sides.

To me, comprehensive immigration reform requires a secure border, and I think we actually have a secure border now. It requires visa reform so that more people can come into the country legally, we know who they are, we know where they're going, and we know how long they're allowed to stay.

And we need to deal with those who live in the country who are undocumented. There are 10-11 million individuals. They are part and parcel of our communities, they've purchased houses, they've started businesses, they work in home health care, they work in our fields, they work in construction. We need to have a way where they can get right with the law.

One of the things we did when I was secretary was to take the young people known as Dreamers, brought here as children, who have grown up in this country, oftentimes don't even speak the language of their country of origin, they've grown up here, they go to our universities—we have several thousand at the University of California. By any stretch of the imagination these young people should not be priorities for enforcement of our nation's immigration laws. So we started Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a process by which a young person can file an application, demonstrate a clean criminal record, and be entitled to remain in this country and to get work authorization to work in this country.

We started DACA from scratch. The president announced it in June of 2012. We didn't know whether we'd have 50 people register or 5,000. Today almost 850,000 young people are protected under DACA.

When the current administration announced plans to rescind DACA, to end that program, as president of the university I took the only step available and sued the administration. I think I'm actually the only cabinet secretary who has actually sued her successor. But we did obtain an injunction against ending that program, and that injunction currently is in force. It has held up through the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court to date has declined to take that matter up.

So, even in the absence of immigration reform there are changes that we could and we did make to make enforcement of the law fair but firm, but also more consistent with our national values and our national interests.

Those are some of the points made in How Safe Are We? I hope you enjoy it. It is my first book, and I'm excited to launch it into the world today. So, thank you very much.

QUESTIONS

QUESTION: My name is Frank Carling.

I'm very sympathetic to the plight of undocumented immigrants who are here. We have good friends who've been here for years with children who are U.S. citizens, and they now have to worry, running businesses. I get it.

But here's a question for the Democratic Party in the next election: Doesn't this issue of immigration have to be confronted in some way?

When Reagan was president he had an amnesty for all of the undocumented immigrants. There were like 3 million of them at the time. And the way he got it through was passing the law that prohibited American employers from hiring undocumented aliens. So the deal he made with the Republican Party: "We'll give an amnesty, but people won't be allowed to work here anymore if they're undocumented, and the problem will go away." It didn't go away. Today we have 10-11 million undocumented.

How do I explain to my Trumpite friends if we give amnesty to the 10 or 11 million, we won't have 20 million 10 years from now?

JANET NAPOLITANO: The answer, I think, is hopefully not. I think the appropriate approach was actually the one that was taken in the 1980s that was just never carried, which is to say that we need to focus on the employers who hire illegal labor. When I was secretary we stopped the practice of doing workplace raids, but we increased the practice of auditing employers to see if their paperwork—their I-9s, as they're called—were in fact in order. That's where the focus needs to be.

I also think you can raise the point of what should we as a country do with the 10 or 11 million who are here who are undocumented. We're not going to deport them all. That's just administratively impossible. That's like deporting the entire city of Los Angeles. We just don't have the judicial or administrative machinery to do that.

So we can either try to ignore it and pretend that the problem will go away, or we can kind of deal with it and bring these people out of the shadows, again so we know who they are and where they are. I think overall the country will be safer if we do that, and it will also be safer for immigrant communities because now if you're undocumented and you're the victim of a crime, you don't want to go to law enforcement. Or if you're the witness to a crime, you don't want to work with law enforcement. That's a real danger to our communities where undocumented immigrants live.

So we need to find some way to bring them out of the shadows. Again, I think a focus on employers is one way to do it.

QUESTION: This was great.

Can you discuss why separation of children from parents at the border is not considered kidnapping under the law, transporting these kids across state lines?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I don't think it's kidnapping because it's actually done under the color of law. But what it is is terrible policy.

What happened is that the attorney general announced zero tolerance, that anybody caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted criminally. Deportation is a civil administrative procedure. Once you take that point, that anybody found crossing the border illegally is going to be prosecuted for a federal misdemeanor, which is what it is, that's means by necessity children are separated from parents because children cannot be housed in the same criminal facilities as adults.

That means then those children go into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. What caused the mayhem at the border that we saw was that even if you were to agree with the zero-tolerance policy and the prosecute-everybody policy—which I do not, by the way—the lack of planning and foresight into how this was actually going to occur was really in a way government malpractice. You had three federal agencies involved—the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services. And it's as if this policy was enacted without any prior coordination amongst the three, without any kind of recognition about the need to reunite children with their parents and to be able to know where the children have gone. It was really rather shocking.

It has taken the intervention of the courts to try to remedy this. In point of fact, now, to my understanding, the federal government has withdrawn from the prosecute-everyone policy. Why? Because it doesn't work, and it detracts, it takes prosecutors away from doing narcotics-smuggling cases and gun-running cases and other cases that happen along the border to do what are essentially federal misdemeanors.

QUESTIONER [Unidentified][off-mic]: Do you consider the law being manipulated to okay what in my opinion is kidnapping?

JANET NAPOLITANO: No. I think if you look at the technical definition of kidnapping it would not apply because the removal was done under the color of law.

QUESTION: I'm Krishen Mehta from the Aspen Institute.

I want to thank you, Secretary. When you took over and the nation heaved a sigh of relief and those Amber Alerts and the Red Alerts that were a patent of the previous administration were removed, we sort of breathed a little better. That was an important change.

I'm looking at the time in 2009 when you were secretary. President Obama took over, we had a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate. Was there a missed opportunity then to have some permanent reforms in the area of immigration that could have gotten us out of the crisis then and perhaps made a better situation now? What were the push-and-pulls that prevented a very long-lasting solution at that time, when there was complete control by those parties?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I think, going back to that time, we have to recognize that when President Obama took office the nation was really in recession and was on the verge of an actual depression. So rescuing the U.S. economy took precedence.

Then health care reform took precedence. And health care reform I think ended up taking longer. It was more complicated than anyone had predicted it would be.

So by the time you rescue the economy and enact the Affordable Care Act, by then the House had turned over, and the ability to do any kind of comprehensive immigration reform was lost.

I actually think the Republican Party should not be given a pass on this. We all have an investment in who is in our country, who can be a citizen of our country, who can work legally in our country and grow up in our country. I think that it requires people of both parties—I know I sound idealistic; I'm still idealistic after all these years—to come together.

It happened in the Senate. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill. It was done in a bipartisan fashion. It went over to the House and was never heard of again.

Look, we have big, complicated problems in our country. We need Congress to deal with them.

QUESTION: Peter Russell.

Could you speak a little bit about climate change and the relationship with homeland security and national security, and how should we think more imaginatively about it to overcome the stalemate?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I identify climate change as one of the big risks facing the country. It's a big risk because if you think about homeland security as protecting our safety, how many people have been endangered or indeed killed by these extreme weather events that are happening with more frequency and with more intensity than they have in the past and which we predict will continue to happen—more landfall hurricanes, greater tornadoes, wildfires, particularly in the West.

So I think we need to look at it in two ways. One is I think that the United States needs to rejoin the community of nations and work to achieve the standards in the Paris accord. I think our withdrawal from that Paris accord was ill-advised.

But the second thing we need to do is adapt to the climate change that has already occurred. What does that mean? Well, it means that we need to look at how we build our roads, the materials we use for our buildings, where we locate communities, and where we locate airport runways. We've got rising sea levels, we've got drier forests. All of those things are the products of climate change.

So I think we need to address it in both ways. We need to try to reduce the rate at which the planet is warming but also then focus more on adaptation.

QUESTION: Thank you. James Starkman.

It is really refreshing to hear an outline of the panoply of major issues facing this country in its completeness, and I really commend you for this address this morning.

I just want to ask one particular question about what should be the proper role of the United States in going to the source of mass migration, in other words, in Central America, for example. What are the limits and the possibilities of our interference or participation in suppressing dictatorial regimes?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I'm so glad you made that point, which is to say the current situation at the border is a situation where we have families fleeing with children from countries of Central America where the rate of violence is unacceptably high, and they're fleeing for their safety. I believe that U.S. investment in activities in those countries to support the strengthening of the institutions of government like the judicial system, to go after gang violence—and we know how to do that. We've done that in this country.

We did it in Colombia. Colombia was essentially a narco-state. The United States put together a comprehensive plan working with those in Colombia who did not wish it to be a narco-state and developed a country that has now become a tourist destination.

We can do this sort of thing with the right level of investment at the source of where this illegal immigration is coming from. I think that would be a much better investment than a wall.

QUESTION: Susan Gitelson.

Would you expand on cyber? You said it's very complicated, and you have to deal with social media and with hacking and governments and private individuals and everything else. Please tell us more.

JANET NAPOLITANO: I think cyber actually may be the most complicated issue that we dealt with. When I started as secretary I spent maybe 10 percent of my time on cybersecurity-related issues. When I left in 2013 it was at least 40 percent of my time, and I noted that the current secretary recently gave a speech in Washington on the state of homeland security, and she identified the number-one risk to the country as cyber, not, interestingly enough, the Southwest border, but cyber.

We are a nation of problem solvers, and we need to take this on. One of the things I recommend in my book is that we create a commission of the type and stature that the 9/11 Commission was to really focus on 10 different issues on cybersecurity, everything from how federal agencies are organized to the coordination with the private sector to coordination internationally and what constitutes actually an attack of cyberwarfare. I think we need one nucleus, one place, where all of the different issues involving cyber can be combined, debated, and some rules of the road created.

There's no easy answer here. There's no magic wand, but I think this area deserves our most serious attention.

QUESTION: Bob Palmer. Thank you very much.

With respect to, as a retired physician, the drug pandemic that we have in this country, what is your position on trying to remove the profit motive by making the drugs legal and leading to treatment in this country? There's a follow-on to that comment about what drives the immigration of gangs and so forth from South America. Should we legalize narcotics?

JANET NAPOLITANO: No. I think there are good health reasons for not doing so.

On the other hand, I do believe that we need to invest more in treatment. This is particularly needed with respect to the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our country. It needs more than a declaration of emergency or crisis, it needs real investment.

QUESTION: John Hirsch. First of all, thank you very much.

I agree with most of your points. I thought you've been very, very gentle with the administration. I've not heard any criticism on your part, just sort of a disagreement.

One of the words you've not used is "racism." It seems to me that the administration has a racist approach to the Southern border, keeping Mexicans and so on, Hondurans, and El Salvadorans out of the United States because they're not white Americans.

Could you comment on whether you think there's a racist quality? When you listen to the president it sounds very racist, and they're all code words which all of his followers seem to understand very clearly, so I wonder if you want to add a few thoughts along those lines to your remarks?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I'm going to leave it to everyone here to draw their own conclusions, seriously, about the president's vocabulary and approach.

But what I will say, as the former governor of a border state, that I worked with my counterpart in the Mexican state of Sonora more frequently than I worked with most other U.S. governors. Why? Because we had a shared interest. We had a shared interest in a safe border zone, we had a shared interest in commerce, trade, and tourism being able to negotiate that border and go back and forth in a safe and secure way. We worked together, and that's why I think this whole debate about a wall is so destructive.

Mexico is the number-two trading partner of the United States. It's responsible for thousands of jobs in the United States, and we need to be working with Mexico.

By the way, we need to be working with Mexico in terms of illegal migration from Central America. They transit Mexico. There are efforts that the United States should be supporting along the southern border of Mexico as well.

QUESTION: Good morning. Thank you for addressing us today.

You've spoken of the United States being a victim of cyberterrorism and hacking and the need for international cooperation. Can you comment on what the United States is doing abroad? Is our government in return gathering information either from our enemies and our partners in this sort of hacking or intervention, and does this make us seem disingenuous in our anger about what is happening toward us?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I think the United States is active in the world cyber networks gathering actionable intelligence about those who seek to harm us, and I don't think that's disingenuous at all. I don't believe the United States is involved in directly interfering in elections in other countries, which is what we saw in 2016.

QUESTION: Don Simmons.

About 10 years ago there was a sequence of attacks brought by Islamist adversaries, explosions—I'm thinking of the Underwear Bomber, the Shoe Bomber, print cartridges out of Yemen that you mentioned, the Times Square Bomber. All of those have in common that they were stopped not by our skills but by tips or good luck. Bombs failed.

But those kinds of attacks have stopped, those kinds of episodes. So I'm wondering, would you say it's because we've upped our game or that our adversaries are choosing other methods of attack?

JANET NAPOLITANO: I think it actually could be both.

I actually talk in my book about the Underwear Bomber. The Underwear Bomber—this happened Christmas Day 2009, and this young man boarded a series of planes from Lagos to Amsterdam, and then he was flying from Amsterdam to Detroit, and he had some explosives in his underwear that he was going to set off by injecting acid of some sort there. He was able to board the plane. He ignited the explosives. A fellow passenger saw the smoke, and they took action, and he was arrested when the plane landed.

So I got a call—I was at my brother's house for Christmas—that this had happened. The first thing we had to do was to make sure that there weren't other underwear bombers on other planes headed for the United States, so we were immediately able to be in touch with every flight that was coming to the United States, and we were immediately in touch with last points of departure for the United States, and we were able to run passenger manifests and all these sorts of things.

When we ran the information about the Underwear Bomber it turns out there were lots of red flags about him that had been missed. The approach taken was that he would be interviewed once the plane landed in Detroit. Well, that's too late. It's my point about you have to push the borders out, you've got to work internationally.

Recognizing that waiting until somebody gets to the United States was too late, we began an international aviation approach where we held several regional conferences around the world with our colleagues and with the people who actually run airports and airlines. Through that, we tightened up considerably on transit from last points of departure to the United States to the United States, and actually through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is part of the UN environment, adopted a series of different rules governing international air travel.

The point is that that happened, it shouldn't have happened, and what did we do to fix it? A lot of those kinds of things have occurred with lots of lessons learned every time there's an incident, every time somebody evades our systems. So it has become much more difficult. Not impossible. I started my talk by saying homeland security is not a guarantee, but it is much more difficult. Perhaps through that our adversaries have found different targets.

JOANNE MYERS: I'm getting a message that we're under a time constraint, so I just want to thank you again for personifying grace under pressure. Your book is available for purchase, so I hope maybe you'll have a few minutes just to sign a few before you run off.

JANET NAPOLITANO: Absolutely. Thank you all very much.

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