State News

US Homeland Security head talks terrorism, border security

Posted October 20, 2011 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2011 10:24 p.m. EDT

— The head of the federal agency that tries to secure America from dangers ranging from terrorism to natural disasters said threats to aircrafts remain constant, even a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

Plots to get weapons on-board planes or stash bombs in cargo or more creative places continue to be dealt with, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said while speaking at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy on Thursday.

Napolitano said there have also been threats of people "surgically implanting bombs into suicide bombers." 

One of the most dangerous threats the country faces is terrorists inside the country, like the person who planted a bomb near the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Spokane, Wash., earlier this year, she said. 

Cyberspace is also a place where the country is seeing a growing number of attacks, she said. 

"This is an area where we are being attacked on a daily basis," she said. 

Napolitano said most terror plots are foiled when someone notices something suspicious and tells authorities. 

Despite the country's best efforts, Napolitano said, "You have to accept (that) you will not eliminate every threat." 

Napolitano arrived days after her agency's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division said it deported nearly 400,000 people during the fiscal year that ended in September, the most in the agency's history. Officials said about 55 percent of those deported had felony or misdemeanor convictions.

Napolitano has said deportation efforts are focused on criminals, recent border crossers, and those who repeatedly cross the border.

She stressed on Thursday that the borders are being secured.

When asked a question by a young man, who acknowledged that he was in the country illegally, Napolitano stressed that she supports the Dream Act, allowing those who grew up in the U.S. illegally to stay, if they meet certain conditions. 

"There is not a stronger believer in the Dream Act," she said.