Former White House official speaks about security risks

Days after explosives were found on cargo planes bound for the United States from Yemen, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge emphasized the importance of open communication and sharing information among allies at the University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute on Monday.

Following a tip from intelligence officials in Saudi Arabia, two devices made from modified printer cartridges and filled with explosives were discovered, postmarked to two synagogues in Chicago. The U.S. government has said that al Qaeda operatives in Yemen were responsible for the attempt.

“At the end of the day, good intelligence promotes aggressive action, which prevents attacks,” Ridge said. “We have been lucky.”

The country’s national security depends on similar partnerships with other countries, he said.

“Without these allies, we could not have neutralized this threat,” Ridge said.

For the U.S. government facing terrorism, “it’s all about trying to reduce and manage the risk,” he said.

Increased widespread travel across the world has added to the types of threats the U.S. must react to, Ridge said.

“The reality is that the globalization of flight assists, abets and advents the globalization of terrorism,” Ridge said. And that is just a challenge we are going to have to accept as part of the new norm that we live in.”

He added that although terrorists could potentially exploit any newly created technology, continued innovation is crucial because new technology can greatly aid U.S. security and “create a safer, stronger and better” America.

Ridge said America’s future security and prosperity also hinges on more overseas engagement.

“[Terrorism] is a fact of life, let’s accept it, let’s support those who are trying to make us secure,” he said. “Let’s just go out and continue to do what we do as Americans in the 21st century, but get more engaged overseas.”

Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, also noted the importance of the U.S. government communicating with the American people. He said the government is doing well with this and has been improving, but there is always more to be done.

“I think Americans would rather deal with the known than the unknown,” he said. “We would rather deal with the threat if possible. The greatest fear is the unknown. I think Americans can deal with information.”

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