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Report on the Fact-Finding Trip to Washington  D.C.

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

February 4 -7, 2002

Monday, 4 February

            In the morning the Committee was briefed by officials from the Canadian Embassy.  The material presented was brief and succinct.  It covered the following topics, among others: 

            On Monday afternoon the Committee heard presentations from Commander Steven Flynn, United States Coast Guard and Senior Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and from Dr. Jane Alexander, Deputy Director of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


A.  Commander Flynn  

            Over the past several years Commander Flynn has become very concerned about the security problem posed by maritime cargo containers.  In 2000, 11.6 million of these containers passed through the United States border inspection systems.  The vast majority of these containers, however, were never inspected.  Very little is known about many containers – their cargo manifest has only sketchy information about the contents and may include no information about the original sender or the ultimate customer. 

            Roughly 2% of the containers are subjected to some form of inspection which usually just involves opening the back-end and looking inside rather than actually unloading and inspecting the contents.  Choosing which containers to inspect is too frequently based on a simple study of documents rather than on intelligence about the shipper, the shipping line, the ports-of-call or the ultimate customer. 

            Anything which caused United States authorities to stop the movement of containers to inspect the contents of each one would have a devastating impact on Ports like Halifax which receive and forward thousands of containers whose ultimate destination is the United States. 

            Commander Flynn presented a plan to the Committee to separate the vast majority of containers which are low risk from the 2% which must be subjected to careful inspection.  Most of the world’s overseas trade passes through a handful of mega ports such as Long Beach, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hamburg, Antwerp and Rotterdam.  If these ports agreed on common standards for security, reporting, and information-sharing for operators, conveyances and cargo, these standards would become universal almost overnight.  The standards would require that containers be loaded in approved, high-security facilities, that they then be equipped with high-security seals and sensors to determine whether the seal had been tampered with.  The movement of containers would be monitored to and from seaports and onward to their final destination by the global positioning system.


 B.  Dr. Jane Alexander  

            Dr. Alexander briefed the Committee about the work of the United States’ main research and development agency.  DARPA has a budget of more than $2 billion to fund the search for “radical” solutions to technological problems that might arise 10-15 years in the future.  Its investigation of the technological aspects of biological terrorism, for example, began 8 years ago – as a result, while the United States was not completely prepared for something like the anthrax incident, its preparations proved adequate.  In the same way, a project has been underway to determine whether and under what circumstances a particular group might engage in acts of terrorism and what kind of events might trigger an attack. 

            In a discussion of the growing technological superiority of the Unites States Armed Forces over their allies, including Canada, Dr. Alexander noted that problems of interoperability exist within the US forces as well as between them and their allies.


Tuesday, 5 February  

            On Tuesday morning the Committee met with the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Intelligence.  Senator Kenny, Chair of the Canadian Committee began by noting that Canada considered the attacks of 11 September to have been an attack, not just on the United States, but on North America as a whole – Canadians had also died in the World Exchange Centre.  He further noted that Canada was not part of the security problem facing the United States, but part of the solution.  Both Canada and the United States had to work together to enhance border control and improve their intelligence cooperation.

            The United States members expressed their appreciation for Canada’s friendship and co-operation, particularly the cooperation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in identifying the terrorists of 11 September.  The Canadians pointed out that each country had to work on unifying the product of their intelligence agencies –at present there was a high risk that vital information would not be passed on in a timely fashion, and hence could not be shared internationally. 

            Both parties agreed that good intelligence and the sharing of intelligence were key to both improving security at the border and to ensuring the free flow of goods and persons.  To achieve both free trade and security, means had to be found to identify the 98% of low risk border traffic.  Discussion turned to some of the technology – biometric means of identifying persons – and the possibility of a single inspection system for containers and joint border patrols that could make the border both more secure and more efficient. 

            The members of Congress asked for a briefing on the Canadian anti-terrorist legislation and discussed how the two countries would treat potential terrorists.  Members of the Canadian delegation brought up the issue of refugees passing through the US on easy-to-get tourist visas and then applying at the Canadian border for refugee policy – interest in the US reluctance to agree to a 3rd country safe haven to stop “shopping” for a country of refuge.  The differences in US and Canadian treatment of refugees were noted. 

            Tuesday afternoon the Committee heard briefings from Michael O’Hanlon, a Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies with the Brookings Institute and Joseph Cirincione, Senior Director of the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Foundation.

Mr. O’Hanlon analyzed the recent $48 billion US increase in the United States defence budget, noting that the latter will increase from about $350 billion US this year to $450 billion by 2007.  Procurement had dropped as a percent of the budget, but would rise from about $60 billion to $70 billion.  

            Mr. Cirincione noted that he Bush Administration was turning away from the arms limitation treaties of the 60’s and later – non-proliferation, the ABM Treaty, etc, in favour of the 1950’s Eisenhower policy of export controls on technology.  Bush Administration believed too many countries were cheating and not observing the treaties.

He characterized the nuclear status of the three members of the Axis of Evil as North Korea, closest to becoming a nuclear power; Iraq had a plan, but lacked material; Iran had neither plan nor material. 

            Late Tuesday afternoon the Committee met with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Attention was drawn to the difference in US and Canadian expenditure on their Armed Forces with US expenditures approaching 3%.  Canadian level of expenditure based on different level of security/insecurity. 

            The Canadians noted the importance of improved security to the future of ports such as Halifax, to the fact that the anti-terrorist legislation had sacrificed a degree of individual rights, and to the necessity of each country to unify communications within their own agencies as a prelude to exchanging information internationally. 

            The Americans raised the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities and missile defence.  The Canadians responded that Canadian support for missile defence/widening the war in Afghanistan would be based on convincing arguments, but that Canada would approach the question with an open mind.  Treatment of the Taliban and Al Queda prisoners was raised. 

            In terms of Homeland Defence, it was noted that Canada likes the NORAD model with its binational command structure.  The proposal that would be placed before the President would include Canada, but little was known about it.


Wednesday, 6 February  

            The meeting the Committee had Wednesday morning with the House Armed Services Committee was extraordinary.  It was attended by both the Chair, The Honourable Bob Stump, and the Ranking minority member, The Honourable Ike Skelton, as well as by a number of other members. 

            In his opening remarks Mr. Skelton spoke of how in good times we all tend to take our friends for granted; nevertheless, when we really need them, they are there for us.  Discussion then turned to a number of different issues such as: the need to work together to meet the terrorist threat; border issues and the need to ensure the safety of containers; reductions in defence expenditure by NATO allies; the Missile Defence System and how any “weaponization” of space would set off alarm bells in Canada, etc. 

            A member of the United States committee then proposed the establishment of direct committee-to-committee relations – a binational ad hoc or permanent task force on terrorism which would meet on a regular basis to discuss anti-terrorist policy and tactics and to ensure that the United States committees developed a sensitivity to the concerns of the Canadian and European allies of the United States.  Members of both the Canadian and United States committees agreed that regular meetings would be very useful. 

            At the end of our discussion with members of the House Armed Services Committee, defence Secretary Rumsfeld joined the discussion.  He opened his informal remarks by saying he still remembered the role Canada had played in protecting Americans during the Iranian hostage taking incident and then thanked Canada for its support since 11 September.  He outlined his current thinking about the creation of a unified military command to include North America and to complement the civilian homeland defence organization being put together by Governor Ridge. 

            Secretary Rumsfeld noted than any proposal put before the President would be sensitive to Canadian concerns about command structure, particularly of NORAD.  The latter’s command structure would continue to be binational and to respect the sovereignty of each nation.  Within the new command it would be possible to have both United States and Canadian air and naval units because they were already accustomed to training, exercising and fighting together.  With regard to interoperability he noted that NATO budgets had been in decline as a percent of GDP and that even the United States’ expenditures were down from the 6% level of the era of President Eisenhower.  Other than increase defence spending, he suggested increased specialization: within a broad range of capabilities, each country should choose something – air lift, special forces, etc. – to do exceptionally well. 

            At the end of the discussion the Committee was invited to listen the Secretary Rumsfeld’s opening address to the hearing.  Once again, at the hearing a warm public tribute was paid to Canada for its friendship and assistance. 

            After its meeting with the House Armed Services Committee, the Committee was also warmly received by the officials of the Canadian section of the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs.  The officials went out of their way to say that no country had responded to 11 September as well as Canada and that they had excellent relations with Mr. Manley and his staff as well as with the Canadian security organizations, particularly the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP.  Defence cooperation was described as “fighting shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan.”  The officials were also open in saying that in terms of the negotiations over security issues, they did not see a “deal breaker”; joint facilities/inspection, integrated border patrols, refugees, the NEXUS pilot project (whose expansion was considered almost certain once agreement was reached on a biometric identity card for frequent border crossers), everything was on the table. 

            With regard to defence issues, the officials noted that all the NATO allies had to develop their capabilities and increase their expenditures.  This having been said, they acknowledged the large increase in Canada’s expenditure on security and that in certain respects the Canadian air and naval forces were the most interoperable among the allies. 

            Following its briefing at the State Department, the Committee met with Major General Dunn and defence officials at the Pentagon.  General Dunn began by asking the members of the Committee how they saw the future of the Canadian Armed Forces.  The response was that while Canadian public opinion saw the need for increased expenditure on security, it had yet to be convinced of the need for major increases in defence spending.  In terms of homeland defence, the new command would pull together into a command military units and establish links to the Coast Guard and the separate National Guard forces.  Certainly, Canadian air force units could be integrated into this structure, but the United States Department of defence was also open to expanding NORAD to the sea and land.  The Canadian response to this was that Canada had to have a clear idea about the “architecture” so it could be put before public opinion. 

            Wednesday afternoon concluded with short briefing sessions on the United States view of NATO expansion, the Missile Defence System and Homeland Defence. 

            Dr Crouch seemed to suggest that the Baltic countries, perhaps Bulgaria and Romania as well were closer to admission than Slovenia and Slovakia and that Macedonia and Albania were definitely not ready.  Expansion would make reaching a consensus more difficult and would exacerbate the problem of the existence in the alliance of different levels of interoperability.  The challenge will be to move toward greater interoperability. 

            The Missile Defence System was represented as a turning away from a strategy based on offensive nuclear weapons which would be systematically reduced, and toward a strategy of building a limited defensive capacity to intercept the handful of missiles that rogue states might develop within the next decade or so.  The implications of this for Canada were that neither missiles nor their nuclear/biological warheads would respect borders. 

            The new command for homeland defence was presented as a way of pulling together air defence capability and of establishing more clear lines of communication with the Coast Guard and National Guard to position the Department of defence to better assist the civil authority with emergency preparedness.  Although in theory emergencies are dealt with first at the local level, then at the State level and finally, the State Governor asks for federal assistance, in practice the Department of defence becomes involved very soon as local commanders react in anticipation of a request for assistance. 

            The Committee met for a second time with the United States House Committee on Intelligence Wednesday evening at the request of its Chair, the Honourable Porter Goss.  He began by noting how important Canadian sympathy and support had been to the United States, psychologically just as much as materially.  He also expressed pleasure that Canada had substantially increased its expenditure on its security forces, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in particular, because the backbone of the anti-terrorist campaign had to be intelligence. 

            His Committee had been warning for years that United States intelligence was being underfunded.  He characterized intelligence cooperation between the United States and Canada as being excellent and noted that as federal countries we shared many of the same problems, in particular, the flow of information from the local to the federal level, and the difficulty of overcoming the culture of secrecy and turf wars. 

            He claimed that the Taliban and Al Queda prisoners were well treated – he had made a surprise visit to the compound – but had to be interrogated.  He also claimed to have access to classified information that justified the references to the “Axis of Evil.”  In response, members of the Canadian delegation pointed out that Canadian public opinion was turning critical of the denial of prisoner of war status to at least the Taliban captives and that a public case would have to be built against each of the countries considered to be a threat – North Korea, Iran and Iraq before Canada would consider any expansion of the war.



            In the morning the Committee met with members of both the Senate and the House Judiciary Committees.  It was noted that terrorists exploited Canada’s more liberal immigration laws and that if Canadian and US refugee and immigration laws remained un‑harmonized, the US might be forced into a more restrictive policy.  Suggested formation of a joint Canada-US joint task force to catch Bin Laden.  In response the Canadians noted that other than Ressam there was no record of a terrorist entering the US from Canada and that 20,000 were turned back at the Canadian border with the US.  Both countries had to put more resources into the border. 

            The US will put $50 million into the border, about equal amounts into technology and more personnel.  At the same time the Canadian anti-terrorist legislation was praised.

The US legislators raised the question of at least overseas airlines sending their manifests ahead and recording the number of a traveller’s passport before the plane left for the US.

Discussion turned to the project for a smart border and the necessity of improving security at ports.  It was noted that Canada was inspecting a higher percentage of containers and that almost 40% of refugees crossed from the US.  Pre-clearance works, but more has to be done to integrate data from various sources. 

            Substantial discussion of 3rd country refuge.  Very strong expression of frustration of US legislators with their immigration service, its backlogs and inability to remove those ordered deported.  Different figures for the rate of acceptance of refugees in each country, suggestion that more should be done to harmonize refugee determination process.  Agreeing to 3rd country refuge would be a problem to the US because the administration sets quotas. 

            The Committee completed its fact-finding with a briefing on homeland defence from Frank Miller, the President’s Adviser on Military Matters and Ambassador John Maisto.  They fleshed in some details of the remarks Defence Secretary Rumsfeld had made.

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