U.S., Canada, Mexico advance homeland security initiative

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez today released a plan, co-developed with Canadian and Mexican leaders, to establish common North American programs for screening travelers and strengthening Internet commerce and privacy protections, among other goals.

The report is the first document to be released under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, created in March by President Bush, Mexican President Vincente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. After consulting with stakeholders, senior officials met in Ottawa June 24 to discuss measures to cooperate on security without hampering trade.

"We are building upon the strong relationships between our countries to further our common security goals and achieve transformational improvements," Chertoff said in a news release.

Other participants in the report included Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, Canadian Minister of Industry David Emerson, Mexican Secretary of the Economy Fernando Canales and Mexican Secretary of Governance Carlos Maria Abascal Caranza.

Top officials from the three countries have agreed to set up a single, integrated North American Trusted Traveler program by 2008, which would offer streamlined airport screening and processing to travelers who have undergone security checks in advance.

The program could be modeled after the Transportation Security Administration's Registered Traveler program, which has been operating at selected airports in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington for the last year. It is currently limited to 10,000 participants. The idea is that frequent travelers who undergo a background security check would receive quicker screening at airports.

The three countries also will work to develop joint standards for baggage and passenger screening and for "no-fly" programs throughout North America, as well as new protocols for air cargo inspection.

The report also includes a "Framework of Common Principles for Electronic Commerce," including goals for strengthening the Internet as a medium for trade. Among other goals are adopting principles from the United Nations Commission on International Trade laws and, to protect privacy, providing "enforcement backstop mechanisms, as necessary, to complement and strengthen industry initiatives and to ensure protection in the absence of private sector solutions."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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