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U.S. Should Concentrate on Border and Airport Security, Says Chertoff

By Matthew Harwood

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, the U.S. chief of homeland security said the United States should concentrate on developing a global system for antiterrorist screening checks at airports and borders.

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff told listeners at the Institute of European Affairs that the United States does not face the same threat of homegrown terrorism that Europe does, so its most logical priority is stopping those who wish to do it harm from entering the country.

According to the International Herald Tribune, Chertoff argued for a joint U.S.-Europe common fingerprint and personal-data system.

During a 45-minute speech, he concentrated on how gathering information on all those crossing borders — whether by air, ship or land — was essential to pinpointing security threats. He argued that such an intelligence database would actually enhance people's sense of privacy and ease of travel, because security officials would not have to subject large groups of travelers to questioning.... He said the formula for causing least disruption to travelers would require U.S.-bound travelers to provide counterfeit-resistant forms of identification, fingerprints and "commercial" personal data, such as their birth dates, contact telephone number and method of payment for the ticket.

The only alternatives, he said, were to "let in everybody and pretty much take our chances ... or stop everybody and put everybody into secondary inspection. That would destroy our international travel system."

Chertoff also noted that a positive side-effect of more secure identification documents would be a reduced vulnerability to identity theft.

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