NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday called for more public participation to guard against terrorist threats, part of the Obama administration’s strategy to keep the country safe.
The strategy involves cooperation of local law enforcement, the federal government and U.S. allies along with ordinary Americans in a collective fight, she said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The country’s counter-terror approach needs to be “more layered, networked and resilient to make it smarter, and more adaptive,” her prepared text said.
Napolitano called for civic awareness and involvement. “For too long, we’ve treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than an asset in our nation’s collective security.” she said.
“You are the ones who know if something is not right in your communities, such as a suspicious package, or unusual activity,” she said. “We have a much greater chance at success if we strengthen our own networks by enlisting the talents and energies of all Americans.”
She cited the vulnerability of the country’s cyber-network, critical to power grids, the infrastructure and commerce.
Technological advances since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have created new vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, the enemy had also evolved.
“The terror threat is even more decentralized, more networked, and more adaptive than on 9/11,” she said. “We face a networked enemy, and we must meet it with a networked response.”
Also on Wednesday, Napolitano announced $78 million for new police officers for the country’s transit systems. Some $35 million, will go to New York and will provide for 125 new transit officers focused on terrorism.
“We can always use more boots on the ground because new York City does remain a prime target for terrorists,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who joined Napolitano for the announcement at the city’s Grand Central Station.
Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Alan Elsner and Michelle Nichols