Jews Face Special Risks, Napolitano Says

Homeland Security Sec'y Defends Controversial Grant Program

Secretary Speaks: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to staff at the Forward’s offices.
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Secretary Speaks: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks to staff at the Forward’s offices.

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 05, 2012, issue of June 15, 2012.
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On another topic, Napolitano said that the DHS has decided to allow Israeli citizens to enter the United States via a special fast-track program despite Israel’s decision not to grant Americans reciprocal consideration, as the United States usually requires.

Israel’s inclusion in the Global Entry program allows frequent visitors to the United States to complete a questionnaire about their backgrounds and thereafter enter the country by simply scanning their passports. Napolitano announced the decision to include Israeli citizens in the program during a May 20 visit to Israel. A reciprocity requirement that has been applied to all other countries seeking to join the program was waived in the case of Israel.

“We have a special friendship with Israel,” Napolitano explained. “President Obama is very committed to that relationship, and we are looking for ways to express that commitment within the portfolio of tasks that the Department of Homeland Security performs.”

At the same time, Napolitano was noncommittal when asked about a push by some members of Congress and the Israeli government to allow Israeli citizens to enter the United States without tourist visas at all, as is currently permitted for citizens of some European countries. The administration, she noted, has not yet expressed its view on this proposal.

During her recent visit to Israel, Napolitano discussed with Israeli officials the issue of securing borders while preserving the rights of refugees entering the country. Israel has been dealing recently with a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment aimed at African migrants seeking refuge in Israel. Napolitano did not, however, provide Israel with advice on the issue and would not comment on the Israeli government’s treatment of the Africans trying to enter the country.

On the issue of screening procedures in airports, however, the DHS secretary did make clear that the United States would not follow Israel’s model. Israel is known for employing screening techniques that profile air travelers based on their origin, ethnicity or faith. Security checks conducted at Ben Gurion International Airport routinely require one-to-one interviews. Napolitano said that the huge difference in scale makes screening via personal interviews impractical in the United States, with its scores of international entry points. “It’s against the law here to profile,” Napolitano added.

“Israel has perfected a system that works very well there,” Napolitano said. “They do a terrific job. But it’s not a system we can just transport 100% to the U.S. It won’t fit.”

Napolitano also pointedly declined to criticize New York City’s controversial program of surveillance of Muslim organizations and individuals with no known or suspected ties to terrorism. She said New York remains a potential terror target and that she was not going to “second-guess” any local police department or the program, which civil liberties groups believe amounts to illegal domestic spying.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


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