Ridge touts biometrics at ISC West

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Monday, May 1, 2006

LAS VEGAS--Saying that biometrics would become the "most pervasive technology in the world" and that it would be used to fight terrorism, crime, illegal immigration, identity theft and identity fraud, Thomas Ridge fired up a crowd of 750 security professionals assembled to hear his April 5 ISC West keynote address during the Eighth Annual Industry Summit portion of the convention.
"You have a role to play" in the fight against terrorism, a battle that will be ongoing for "the next couple of generations," Ridge, a former governor, congressman and first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the audience.
To effectively combat the "asymmetric warfare" waged by terrorists, the homeland security strategy needs to be national in scope. "We can't secure the country from inside the Beltway."
He spoke about the importance of integrating the country--enlisting the help of the public and private sectors, academia and philanthropic organizations.
He defended hardworking FEMA employees, but said the overall response to Katrina underscores the need to have the country "integrated" among the local, state and federal levels of government.
The Internet is one way to achieve this integration and Ridge noted that the Homeland Security Information Network links the Department of Homeland Security with state officials in 50 states, select law enforcement officials and 50,000 private sector security professionals. Eventually, this network will include 200,000 security professionals, he said.
About biometrics, Ridge said the challenge with embedding this kind of technology will be to safeguard the right to privacy. He suggested that the private sector was in a better position than government to look out for people's privacy. "You can't rely on government," he said.
The crowd applauded generously several times during the speech, when he lauded the soldiers overseas, and twice as he talked about the Bush Administration's recent controversial wiretapping. The crowd applauded when he said, "the president did the right thing" with the wiretapping. Later, in response to a question on the same topic, Ridge said, "I don't know why the president didn't go to the Hill" to get permission to do the wiretapping.