Department of Homeland Security

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Dept of Homeland Security

Deborah Meyer, Director of Canadian Affairs of the Department of Homeland Security, spoke recently in a field hearing about “ensuring actionable intelligence to combat threats to the US homeland”. According to her, combating terrorism, illegal immigration and other outside threats entail cooperation with the international community. This hand-in-hand partnership is needed to “identify, detect, prevent and respond to threats”. The US customs and border patrol also work towards providing security by making sure those who pass through borders are not threats to security.

In line with this, the US border patrol entered into a partnership with neighboring country Canada. The US-Canadian border is the longest border that is common to and shared by two countries, with both land and water domains. In fact, Canada is the biggest source of income for the US when it comes to exports. This economic relationship brings more importance to working together against international crime and violence.

Thus, US President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper released a joint declaration entitled “Beyond the Border: A shared vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness” last year. The four key focus areas of the said declaration are:

• Addressing Security Threats Early (using information and intelligence sharing);
• Facilitation of Trade, Economic Growth, and Jobs (using creative solutions for managing border workflow and exchange of goods);
• Integrated Cross-Border Law Enforcement (using joint patrol of waters);
• Critical Infrastructure and Cyber security (using joint efforts like risk analysis and joint outreach).

These areas will be the main focus of the efforts to strengthen the US border security up north. Also joining forces with the US Customs and Border Protection Service is Australia, as confirmed by Australian Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare. The aim of this partnership is to identify, target and neutralize criminal syndicates between the two countries and establishing a Collective Targeting Framework which will jointly address security issues and threats in either countries.

The strategy for this approach is the immersion of Australian experts inside the US Customs and the Border Patrol in order to closely monitor any suspicious activities as well as to easily identify any potential terrorists, drug dealers, smugglers and other criminals that threaten the US or Australia.

Meanwhile, within the US, in preparation for upcoming national political conventions, Homeland Security is also making arrangements. Reports says that DHS officials sought bids for almost 150 sets of riot gear, including riot helmets, body armor, shoulder protectors, tactical gloves and also shin protectors. They were also interested in some extra sets of forearm, thigh and groin protectors. This is part of security measures being undertaken for the National Democratic and Republican conventions as well as the 2013 presidential inauguration. The gear will be outfitted to the Federal Protective Service (FDS) officers who will guard the federal buildings and facilities.

In other news, one of the biggest concerns of homeland security, aside from illegal immigration issues handled by border patrol, would be the threat of nuclear warfare and terrorism. Dr. Huban Gowadia, Acting Director of the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) gave a written testimony a few days ago about this matter. The DNDO is in charge of coordinating with the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture in a domestic setting.

According to Dr. Gowadia, combating nuclear terrorism takes the whole government, which is why the DHS DNDO is a “unique interagency organization”. It has members from various branches of the United States Government, such as the Department of Homeland Security, Departments of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, the Intelligence Community, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as other sectors like the Federal, state, tribal, territorial, international, local and private sectors.
The DNDO is the one responsible for developing new and more effective ways of nuclear detection. They work with their partners in order to improve detection capabilities, improve responses to alarms, and involve themselves with research and development for more advanced nuclear forensics.

Over the past few years, the DHS has developed new strategies to protect the country through our borders. Maintaining and strengthening these scanning systems utilized by border patrol and other ports of entry will be beneficial in keeping our borders safe from terrorism. For example, we utilize the Radiation Portal Monitor (RPM) program, where scanning devices are installed at domestic entry ports. These devices scan cargo and containers for possible radiation and nuclear threats, in accordance with the Security and Accountability For Every Port (SAFE Port) Act. This is an ongoing operation in cooperation with US Border Patrol and US Customs. Most often, a Radioisotope identification device (RIID) is also used.

As part of improving this system, the DNDO has begun studies on replacing units of RPMs that are old, to ensure optimum performance. They are also calibrating their RIIDs and designing new-generation ones made with improved detection materials and stricter algorithms.

As for the strategy for commercial engagement, the DNDO has been recognizing innovative solutions from the private sector, which include laboratories and research facilities. This new strategy is both building relationships and saving government funds. The use of technology is vital in the field of nuclear defense, says Gowadia. As we keep up with the times, upgrading our systems is the key to ensuring protection. He enumerates four main challenges of the DNDO at this point in time. They are:
• Cost effective yet high-performance equipment
• Wider search area coverage to include urban and highly populated situations
• Monitoring and scanning of aviation and maritime vessels as well as ports of entry
• And detection of heavily-shielded nuclear threats

Gowadia also took time to highlight some of the recent projects being undertaken by the DNDO, which include:
• Development of Helium-3 alternatives (because of the current helium-3 shortage)
• Advanced Radiation Monitoring Device (ARMD) which can distinguish real threats)
• Long Range Radiation Detection (LRRD)
 Stand-Off Radiation Detection Systems (for stationary targets)
 Road Side Tracker (for moving vehicles)
• Networked Detectors (Intelligent Radiation Sensor System (IRSS))
-integrates situational awareness as well as data from various separate portable detectors
 And Detecting Shielded Nuclear Threats

The importance of cooperation not only within the branches of the United States Government but also with our neighboring countries cannot be highlighted enough. The fight against crime, terrorism, illegal immigration, drugs and smuggling is an international and global concern. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has recently recovered and returned eleven cultural artifacts from Nigeria which were attempted to be smuggled into the country. Smuggling puts a dent in peaceful international relationships, so the ICE takes these things very seriously. In fact, the statues (from the ancient Nok civilization in Africa) are a very important piece of Nigeria’s history and culture.

James T. Hayes Jr., special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, said that, “The antiquities we are returning are remarkable treasures of untold historical significance that belong with their rightful owners. HSI will continue to investigate and seize national treasures of other countries that find their way to the Unites States under false pretenses.”

Consul General Habib Baba Habu, consulate general of Nigeria in New York, coveyed Nigeria’s appreciation for the swift action of the HIS, saying it was a “friendly gesture, from its American friends”.
Trained to apprehend thieves and smugglers, the HIS plays an important role in helping other countries preserve their cultural heritage. In a matter of 5 short years, the Homeland Security investigations has recovered and returned around 2,500 valuable items to their countries of origin.