Friday, April 13, 2007

[wvns] Israel, US sign homeland security pact

Israel, US sign homeland security pact
Rebecca Anna Stoil

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and his US counterpart,
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, signed a joint
memorandum in Washington DC on Wednesday evening, setting a series of
goals and terms for security collaboration between the two nations.

The joint understanding included partnership on flight security,
including passenger and cargo inspection and information sharing on
the topic of emergency planning, response, recovery and damage
control. The understanding also encompassed sharing of research and
development progress in the field of explosives detection.

In addition, Israel and the US will share information about steps
taken to neutralize, respond to and reduce terror and criminal
activities in specific fields and will also hold joint training and
staff exchanges.

Dichter had previously described the agreement as "a breakthrough
signing of an understandings agreement [with the US] for the war on
terror and establishing cooperation between the Internal Security
Ministry and the Department of Homeland Security."

Dichter, who is on a four-day diplomatic visit to North America, was
recently officially appointed as Israel's diplomatic counterpart to
Chertoff. The former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head is widely
recognized in Washington as an expert in counter-terrorism,
particularly following a nine-month stint as a fellow at the D.C.
Brookings Institute think tank.

A preliminary document signed by both Dichter and Chertoff took pains
to describe that "the meeting was held in a friendly and constructive
atmosphere and with a spirit of mutual understanding" and with
complete agreement "that there exists a vital need to promote
operational, scientific and technological cooperation between the
parties in the field of homeland security."

The two parties agreed that a Homeland Security Steering Committee
will meet at least once a year in order to make sure that the clauses
of the memorandum are carried out. The committee, which will be led by
Public Security Ministry Director Ronny Falk, was also tasked with
defining, setting forth and ratifying "broad, substantive priority
areas for the joint activities within the framework of the
memorandum." Specific desks will be set up at the nations' respective
embassies to make sure that the cooperation and information flows freely.

The agreement builds upon an earlier agreement signed in 1996 which
outlined cooperation in preventing terror attacks, as well as an
agreement between the Defense Ministry and its US counterpart
discussing research and development in the war on terror.

"Iran is the largest terrorist state in the world" Dichter said late
Tuesday night to members of the public security committee of the
Canadian parliament. Moving from discussing geopolitics to talking
shop with the Canadian lawmakers, Dichter laid out what he believes to
be the guidelines for Canadian-Israeli security cooperation in the
future, possibly similar to the agreement that the minister signed a
day later in Washington DC.

The Canadian MPs echoed their American compatriots in addressing the
former Shin Bet head as a world expert in the field of terror rather
than as a visiting minister of a foreign government, asking him at one
point what specific steps the parliament could take to prevent terror
attacks on Canadian soil.

In his answer, Dichter reiterated the importance of strengthening
border security and use of proper investigative methods with suspects.
But the minister, who spent almost a year as a research fellow in the
US, also emphasized that democratic countries - Israel among them -
had to work hard to find the appropriate balance between respect for
human rights and investigative procedures. He cited the example of
transparency of the investigation as dependent on oversight of the
judicial system, as well as the oversight of groups such as the Red Cross.



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