The United States and Germany signed a civil security research treaty today that will open top-secret U.S. laboratories and their research and development to its cross-Atlantic ally, Spiegel Online reports. The treaty will allow both countries to exchange staff and technologies while working to develop common standards and priorities.
The treaty was signed over breakfast by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and German Research Minister Annette Schavan in Berlin.
"Homeland security is not about walling ourselves off from other countries, it is about cooperating with our allies," Napolitano said, according to the Associated Press.
Spiegel Online notes that the treaty is a big departure for the United States.
The mere fact that Napolitano and Schavan were meeting to talk about using technology to fight terrorism was unusual: Until now, the Americans have kept their efforts to develop new security technologies secret.
The research offensive began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and has been fuelled with huge sums of money ever since. Universities, companies and secret laboratories are carrying out research into highly sensitive surveillance cameras, bomb detectors, biometric analysis software and vaccines against biological weapons, among other things. Until now, neither the general public nor the governments of the US's Western allies have learned much about the contents of that research.
The point of the research collaboration will be to find technological solutions that do not trade freedom for security, the AP reports, and will focus on four broad areas: preventing and detecting threats to civil security; protecting critical infrastructure and key resources; forensic science; and "crisis response, 'consequence management,' and damage control in the event of serious incidents," according to Spiegel Online.