DHS secretary Napolitano tours Blaine border

Published on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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Following a visit to the Peace Arch border crossing Monday, Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano said she felt confident the border will function smoothly during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. even if construction of the new port of entry facility won’t be completed in time.

The tour was one of several stops for Napolitano during her trip to Washington state. She was accompanied by state and local officials including Governor Christine Gregoire and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-Everett).

Prior to her Blaine visit, the secretary also toured a new $4 million Olympics Coordination Center in Bellingham where she spoke with reporters about counter-terrorism, cyber-terrorism and intero-perability between state and federal agencies.

The center, which was created in 2007  under pressure from local law enforcement agencies, will begin a “dry run” next week with the start of the World Police and Firefighter games in Vancouver. The event is expected to draw as many as 12,000 athletes to Vancouver between July 31 and August 9.

During the Olympics, Napolitano said the center will be able to accommodate as many as 54 people and 40 agencies. It will also provide a means for officials to monitor the performance of local border crossings.  
Responding to reporters’ questions about the likelihood of a terrorist incident, however, Napolitano was tight-lipped. Instead, she said she her department will plan for the worst and hope for the best.

“I’m not going to characterize any threats right now,” she said. “But if you haven’t planned for the worst in advance, even if the odds are slim, if you haven’t prepared, exercised and done all those things in advance, you will not be in the position to protect human security and human life.

“This is preparation not just for the games but for ongoing coordination in the future.”

Beyond counter-terrorism, Napolitano urged the importance of maintaining good cross-border relationships.

“We don’t want security to get in the way of the benefits of the games, the tourism and trade, the illustration of this part of the world to the rest of the world that will happen,” she said.

Gregoire echoed those sentiments. “We are not just neighbors, we are best friends,” she said.