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BORDERPOL International Security Meeting: Q&A interview with Janice Kephart


On September 9, 2015 BORDERPOL will hold its three-day International Security Meeting at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington D.C.

The meeting will address several key border security issues, including the current threat environment, the areas where governments need the most help, lessons learned from how terrorists travel, ways to monitor and provide operational intelligence to border agencies, and how agencies can communicate and securely transmit intelligence to domestic and international partners.

Janice Kephart, director of BORDERPOL’s Americas program, has been hard at work planning the event, in addition to her other responsibilities as the founder of Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA).

Last week, Kephart testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee in which she urged the DHS to deploy a comprehensive biometric immigration exit system and re-designed entry system amid the growing threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups.

(A full video of Kephart’s testimony can be viewed here.)

We recently spoke to Ms. Kephart via phone, in which she provided more details about the upcoming BORDERPOL meeting, the current state of the U.S. border entry/exit security program, and why the U.S. government has failed to implement these security measures in airports.

Biometric Update: Who will be attending the BORDERPOL meeting?

Janice Kephart: It is the first international meeting of BORDERPOL in North America. It is going to surround issues of terrorist travel. This is a non-profit organization that is committed to supporting border agencies worldwide for faster, safer, more secure borders. The folks that are going to be attending this meeting, the speakers are all high-level government officials — many of them in the United States — who focus on issues of dealing with securing borders and are extremely knowledgeable and work on a day-to-day basis on curtailing terrorists from conducting their activities. We have a strong cross-section of border agencies, law enforcement, and the intelligence agencies at this event. INTERPOL is deeply involved, and the OSCE (Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe) will also be providing us informing us of their work alongside the United Nations on exposing threats of terrorist travel, and how to curtail it.

What can attendees expect from the meeting?

We’ll be systematically moving through each element of a border’s system; from visa adjudication, to travel document security, to threats and solutions to land and key borders inspection and between ports of entry. to even the legal apparatus for internationally renditioning terrorists, as well as intelligence and watchlisting. We have private sector involvement from those in the technology community who support biometrics, border security enterprises and intelligence.

Was there any debate about setting the meeting’s dates for September 9-11?

I wanted the date to be as significant date as possible for this community. A lot of the folks in this community who work on terrorist activity have found their commitment because of September 11. I wanted to do something meaningful around the September 11th timeframe to really bring everyone together and a showing of internal support for those doing it, as well as feeling like they’re pushing the ball forward on creating a stronger and more robust system to counter terrorist travel around the world.

How would you describe the current state of the U.S. border entry/exit security program?

Interesting enough, I just testified in front of Congress before the Senate Homeland Security Committee about one of the border security issues, biometric entry/exit, this past week. Border security in the United States is simply not as robust as it needs to be. We have vulnerabilities that are still in place. We have definite improvements since 9/11, including our relationship with the Canadians who have provided a lot of mutual support. We have better processes at our ports of entry but we are still not biometrically checking people when they depart the country so we really don’t know when someone is leaving. We are not the leader in the world in deploying a biometric entry/exit system. In fact, at least 32 countries around the world have more sophisticated, faster and more secure systems in place than the US does.

Which countries would you say are leading the world in border security?

I think Australia is doing a great job. Singapore and Indonesia have some of the best systems in the world that electronically feed information quickly to their borders. The United Kingdom and Hong Kong also have strong systems.

What are the greatest challenges for the U.S. government in adopting these solutions?

The biggest problem is that the airports and airlines continue to fight the government on how the implementation is going to take place, who is going to bear the cost of it, etc. There is no legal requirement on the airports to implement the program in a manner that will maximize traveler compliance, so politics have gotten in the way. Money is not really the issue, even though the airports continue to say it is. The biometric solutions are relatively inexpensive now. Airports around the world are seeing economic benefits for a fast, safe and secure border entry / exit system. US airports remain unconvinced. Congress says that as soon as a plan comes forward to them, it will fund it. They’re not going to fund something that there’s no plan for, so that’s legitimate. We just need to sit down with all the stakeholders and work it out, and stop pretending the law will be reserved. That is why SIBA started the Air Entry/Exit Working Group for its members and BORDERPOL supporters. Our work can be found online here.

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