Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: Good Morning!
CELESTE HEADLEE: I have to ask you about the comments that the President made during his speech on Tuesday because he did talk a lot about how the Afghanistan war was tied into our security here at home. Can you tell us a little about what stands out to you as the biggest danger?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, um, out of that region of the world, is where al-Qaida activities are centered, its not exclusively there, but obviously that's where they do a lot of their planning, their organization, their training. And, so what stands out to me is that now we are getting American citizens who have traveled there and been trained and returned back to the homeland and you know, that really was part of the significance of the Zazi case when it came to public light, this was one of our own citizens doing this –
CELESTE HEADLEE: – that would be Naji...That's Najibullah Zazi the twenty four year old Afghan-American who was suspected of planning to blow up parts of the New York subway system. Um, what kinds of things do we have as options in order to find the next plot, homegrown plot, coming from someone like Najibullah Zazi?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, I think we can do everything possible to mitigate risk. Part of it is individuals taking some responsibility, um the see something say something and knowing whom to say it to. Part of it is increased information sharing on intel that we get and particularly sharing with State and Locals and back from State and Locals, particularly say, for example, from you're own police department. And then, and part of it is working with our international allies.
TODD ZWILLICH: Madame Secretary, this is Todd Zwillich. The President the other night announced his build up but then also announced the draw down of U.S. troops, of course and your colleague Secretary Gates says that that could take two to three years, but implicit in that is that this is about terrorism and preventing terrorism, so if were going to draw down Afghanistan eventually, in, lets say two to three years, the back stop of that is that homeland security must be strong enough to prevent the next attack, you know we can't kill, nor will we try to kill every terrorist, so where are we at in that transition right now? As the war, as the end of the war hopefully is in sight, do you think the homeland is well positioned to prevent terrorist attacks, whether they be homegrown or from Asia – as the Afghan War draws down?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, I think we're well positioned, but let me go back to something I said earlier, I don't think we can rely on one Federal Government department to take care of all of our security needs, it is going to be a shared responsibility across the country and if there's anything I hope to work on and improve over the next several years, it's that notion of shared responsibility and really having everybody lean forward into this.
CELESTE HEADLEE: Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security. You came to that position from your position as Governor of Arizona and you're talking about shared responsibilities and one thing that I know you saw in Arizona, probably any Governor sees this, is that departments don't always share responsibilities, in fact, even within your own department, we've seen some highly publicized bickering between the CIA, the FBI, how can you resolve these problems among other departments when you're having some kind of cross purposes within your own?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, listen, first of all let me just be clear, the CIA and the FBI are not within the department of Homeland Security. You know, it's complicated because you've got huge departments, people by very committed men and women trying to do difficult jobs . And of course there's gonna be differences of opinion and of course some of those differences from time to time will, will come to the public view, but that should not detract from the fact that by and large, these departments not only get along, they work along side each other day in and day out. And you know without going into detail, that would not be appropriate in a radio show, but still I think there's a, there's a lot of work that's being done that the American public probably isn't even aware of.
CELESTE HEADLEE: So, you, let's talk about the borders. Earlier this week you said your department is going to miss a 2012 deadline to screen the cargo ships that enter the US through the waters –
JANET NAPOLITANO: – scan, scanning is a term of art, not screen, but go ahead.
CELESTE HEADLEE: OK, well explain that difference there.
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, first, what I shared with Congress is something that my predecessor shared that every expert in the security field has shared, which is that a hundred percent scanning does not equate to a hundred percent security and that we are going with a risk based approach really focusing on where cargo comes from who's handled it, how convinced are we of the security of the shippers. You know, that sort of layering approach is much better than having one, one area in one port, which by the way in the 700 ports around the world, you don't have cargo that just moves through one area. Where you do screening and scanning.
CELESTE HEADLEE: That's a kind of delicate balance, there, these kind of issues that you're talking about, because you want everyone to have an easy trade relationship with the United States. At the same time, you want to emphasize security, and it goes back to what you were talking about earlier: personal responsbility, watching what's going on in our own neighborhoods, and local police departments watching and reporting and cooperating. How do we maintain that balance between our normal, everyday lives, not watching our neighbors through our curtains, not reporting on each other – at the same time that we stay secure and safe?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, we've already seen examples of it, where civilians that have reported things have prevented bad things from happening. I'll adopt the rule of common sense: Let common sense prevail.
CELESTE HEADLEE: Let's talk about immigration, because this is definitely part of your department, and something that you have a lot of experience with, coming from Arizona.
JANET NAPOLITANO: Indeed.
CELESTE HEADLEE: And you have said, first of all, that you support the president in the idea that a legalization path is the first pillar of reform.
JANET NAPOLITANO: When I say legalization ... first of all, I don't say it's the first pillar of reform: I say it's an essential part of reform, which includes giving us some more enforcement tools. For example, our remedies against employers who violate the law are woefully inadequate. Secondly, dealing with future flows of workers.. how many are going to be let into the country under what circumstances? How long will they be allowed to stay? And thirdly, you've got millions in the country illegally. They've got to get right with the law! They've got to come out of the shadows, they've got to pay their fines, and there has to be a process by which they can do that.
CELESTE HEADLEE: And what kind of process are you thinking about for them? Are you thinking about legalizing them all in one sweep, getting them in a process while they're here, or do we need to send them home and make them reapply for a visa?
JANET NAPOLITANO: I think we're working on several options. Obviously, this is for the Congress to ascertain, but the notion of deporting them all and then bringing them back, that somehow they'll volunteer to be deported and then come back, is not realistic. I say this as a border prosecutor and a border governor. You've got to look at some options that are better than that.
CELESTE HEADLEE: This issue, some people were surprised at how volatile this issue has been over the last year or two. I'm certain that you weren't, considering your experience as you said on a border state. But you're dealing with, we hear stories right now about Sheriff Joe Arpaio in southern Arizona going out and doing pickups of immigrants there, and a lot of anger and protests going on in Arizona. How do you deal with this issue when there's, number one, a lot of misinformation out there, but there's also a lot of emotion?
JANET NAPOLITANO: I think, what you have to do is understand and respect the emotion, but also understand that the emotion is not going to solve the problem; that we have an immigration system that is very out of sync with the 21st century. We have an immigration system that needs to be improved in any number of ways. We have an immigration system that can be improved, and that's going to require Congress to be willing to deal with that emotion that's out there, and deal with it by countering with facts and with action, and that's what we're asking Congress to do.
CELESTE HEADLEE: You also said that one of the approaches to reform was to regulate the flow of immigrants. What do you mean by that?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, what I mean by flow is how many visas are permitted from any area of the world, in any one year, for what purpose.. part of that is family unification, which is very important. Part of it is certain worker needs.
CELESTE HEADLEE: You're not talking about maybe putting quotas on how many people can come in?
JANET NAPOLITANO: No, but there are caps, and there are caps in the current law, but they need to be adjusted in light of the modern day labor situation, and we want to protect American workers, but also looking at our future labor needs.
CELESTE HEADLEE: That's Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security. Thank you so much for joining us.