Chertoff Outlines 2009 Security Goals

WASHINGTON -- Reaching a new agreement with Canada to share air passenger information by the end of 2008 seems futile, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the White House in an internal report on his department's priorities.

An Oct. 3 memo to the president's chief of staff - marked "For Official Use Only" and obtained by The Associated Press - outlines the department's goals and the likelihood they will be met by the end of the Bush administration in January 2009.

An agreement that would expand the amount of information the U.S. and Canada share about air travelers is one goal Chertoff does not foresee happening "due entirely to Canada's reluctance to move forward on this initiative," he wrote.

This issue and an immigration overhaul are the only two goals Chertoff cites as unlikely to be met. Congress failed to pass immigration legislation this year.

The document says most of the priorities Chertoff set in July 2006 are on track to be completed by the end of 2008. They include increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from 14,900 today to 18,300 and screening 50 percent of air passengers using a behavior analysis program that identifies suspicious acting travelers.

Some goals have been reached, such as deploying radiation portal monitors at major border crossings and providing nuclear training for 1,200 state and local officials.

But there are a dozen goals Chertoff labeled "at risk," among them:

• Placing machines on U.S. border crossings to read the fingerprints of people leaving the country.

• Issuing rules for state drivers' licenses.

• Developing a national system that would give early detection information about a potential biological event that would help officials respond quickly.

Chertoff's memo also mentions new priorities, such as cybersecurity. "The security measures now in place for government networks are seriously wanting," he wrote. He said the department will propose new rules for general aviation operators that will expand current security requirements.

Chertoff also provided details on goals he described as particularly challenging.

"The most worrisome threat we face is terrorists recruited from the West," he wrote. A new program to collect electronic data before flights from travelers who live in countries exempt from visa screening requirements will be met with mixed reaction, he wrote.

"We expect resistance from old allies who will not want any new requirements placed on their citizens," Chertoff wrote.

Putting in place 26 immigration-related changes, such as a regulation to reduce the number of documents used to verify an employee's eligibility to work in the U.S., "will be controversial and will require steadiness of purpose and commitment of necessary resources."

Chertoff asked the White House that the responsibility to provide long-term housing for disaster victims be transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Housing and Urban Development Department.

"FEMA is fully capable of coordinating and providing short-term shelter in the immediate aftermath of a major domestic incident and will continue to do so, but HUD is well-suited for overall ownership of this disaster recovery function," he said.

When asked about the memo, Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said, "I am not able to comment on internal documents."

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