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Homeland Security Head Michael Chertoff says Security requires sacrifice

by Homeland Security Head Michael Chertoff Friday, Sep. 07, 2007 at 6:19 AM

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security - Benjamin Franklin

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security - Benjamin Franklin

Chertoff: Security requires sacrifice

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says public opposition to a host of new border security programs stalls government efforts to tighten security.

Such opposition ranges from Texas ranchers who don't want border fences built on their property to northern border-state residents who don't want to get passports to cross back-and-forth between Canada and the USA. Chertoff says he is frustrated by the growing number of "people who say, 'Yes, protect us, but not if it inconveniences me.' "

In an interview shortly before the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Chertoff said he considers it one of his "biggest obligations" in his remaining 16 months in office to eliminate the "not-in-my-backyard attitude" when it comes to relatively small costs and inconveniences.

He says he will launch a campaign to spread a message of shared sacrifice "in as plain English as I can, as often as I can and in as many places as I can" from now to January 2009, when his tenure will end with a new presidency.

Among the programs that have faced opposition:

•Real ID, a federal law that requires states to adopt stricter policies for giving out driver's licenses.

States produce hundreds of different types of licenses, making it difficult for border agents to determine whether one is a fake. The 9/11 Commission investigating the terror attacks in 2001 recommended more secure licenses after revealing that the Sept. 11 hijackers got 34 licenses and government ID cards.

In 2005, Congress passed a law requiring people to present documentation in person to show they are in the country legally before they can get a license.

At least a half-dozen states have balked at complying with the law, citing the cost of putting new standards in place.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union oppose Real ID over concerns that it could be used and abused by the government to track people.

•New rules requiring the Social Security Administration to send letters to employers with Homeland Security warnings that they will face criminal penalties if they knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily halted the program. The judge stopped the government from sending letters that warn employers about problems with workers' documents, in response to a lawsuit from the AFL-CIO. The union claimed the letters would violate workers' rights.

"Even if we prevail, as I believe we will, that will slow us up 30 days, 60 days," Chertoff said. "And each of those delays is costly."

•A plan to build roughly 300 miles of fence — with concrete and steel walls — along the Texas-Mexico border. Ranch owners and environmentalists have opposed the plan.

•A requirement that U.S. citizens show passports to come back into the country from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The rule is in effect for air travel and set to take effect Sept. 30 for land and sea crossings.

Opponents succeeded last winter in getting the rule relaxed for children 15 or younger who have parental permission and a birth certificate.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership continues to push for a delay in implementing the law to give citizens more time to comply.

"Implementing (the law) right is better than implementing it quickly," President Andrew Rudnick wrote to members of the partnership last month.

Tim Roemer, a member of the 9/11 Commission, said President Bush should help Chertoff better inform the public about new security programs designed to keep terrorists out of the country.

"The average citizen needs to know more about what to do to stop these people," Roemer said.

Chertoff says he worries that the public is suffering "fatigue" after six years of counterterrorism efforts abroad and at home.

On border security in particular, he says, he is determined to make "very clear the consequence of dropping our guard."

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