Cantwell Introduces Former Seattle Police Chief as Border Patrol Nominee, Secures His Commitment to Respect Privacy Rights
Finance committee holds hearing to consider former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske as Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske as the nominee to head the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency, and secured his commitment to ensure that the U.S. Customs Service respects Americans civil liberties and privacy rights under the U.S. Constitution in the use of CBP drones.
Cantwell’s comments took place during a U.S. Senate Committee on Finance Hearing to consider Kerlikowske’s nomination as CBP Commissioner. Kerlikowske, currently the Director of National Drug Control Policy, was announced by President Obama as his nominee for Commissioner of Customs, Department of Homeland Security on August 1, 2013. Kerlikowske served as the Chief of Police in Seattle from 2000 to 2009.
Cantwell highlighted Kerlikowske’s experiences in Seattle – where trade is critical to the regional economy – and his law enforcement career in her introduction.
Watch a video of Cantwell’s introduction here.
“When Gil was the head of Seattle’s police department for 8 years, he was a leader in a community that worked collaboratively with local, state and federal agencies and organizations,” said Cantwell at today’s hearing. “Many of you may know that Seattle is home to one of the largest ports and gateways to international trade.
“In fact, 70 percent of Seattle’s container cargo comes from and goes to regions of the country outside the Pacific Northwest,” Cantwell continued. “Washington state exports are valued at $75.6 billion in 2012. Needless to say custom, border and security issues are a very important part to our economy.”
Cantwell also secured Kerlikowske’s commitment that if confirmed, he would respect the civil liberties and privacy rights of American citizens. During her questioning, Cantwell cited privacy concerns raised in a Washington Post story about the usage of CBP drones by local agencies.
Watch a video of Cantwell’s questions here.
“From a Pacific Northwest point of view, there are two words that are incredibly important to me and to my constituents,” Cantwell said. “One is technology -- and the use of technology -- and the other is privacy.”
Cantwell asked Kerlikowske: “One of the big privacy concerns is that somehow, information will be collected and stored and accessed by other individuals that may invade the personal privacy rights of U.S. citizens. I hope that you will work as the head of this organization to pay attention to these privacy issues – that technology moves forward but we come up with a firm and solid ground for privacy rights of U.S. citizens under the 4th and 14th Amendment to be protected.”
Kerlikowske replied: “I very much understand that, Senator, and I would agree to that."
During a separate hearing Wednesday of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on the future of unmanned aviation, Cantwell reiterated her privacy concerns while questioning Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, about whether stronger protections need to be in place.
Watch a video of Cantwell’s comments here.
“I definitely believe in three legs of the stool,” Cantwell said at today’s Commerce hearing. “That people who own the data don’t get to decide when it’s accessed by law enforcement. That a judicial process has to take place so I’m definitely in agreement with you but how do we elevate this debate to the focus of this data and data collection?”
“To me this is the 4th and 14th Amendment issues,” Cantwell continued. “You have the right to your personal information and if it is violated in some way then you would obviously…I think that’s how bright the line has to be because I don’t think this is the last application. This is not the last technology we are going to see.”
A full transcript of Cantwell’s introduction statement and questions for nominee Kerlikowske follows:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Hatch. I’m very pleased to introduce Director Kerlikowske to the Finance Committee and I urge my colleagues to confirm him for this position as quickly as possible.
Many of you know, or may know, Mr. Kerlikowske because he got 91 votes in the United States Senate for his current role as the Director of National Drug Control Policy. I have known him for more than a decade. Throughout those years in law enforcement he has demonstrated an impressive record of exceptional management and leadership skills.
When Gil was the head of Seattle’s police department for 8 years, he was a leader in a community that worked collaboratively with local, state and federal agencies and organizations. Many of you may know that Seattle is home to one of the largest ports and gateways to international trade.
In fact, 70 percent of Seattle’s container cargo comes from and goes to regions of the country outside the Pacific Northwest. Washington state exports are valued at $75.6 billion in 2012. Needless to say custom, border and security issues are a very important part to our economy. Anyone who has worked in that region knows how important that coordination is.
It has been good news that our trade deficit has been narrowing in recent months. But to continue to be competitive in that area we need customs and border patrol to be working with easing commercial trade processing systems that U.S. companies can maintain an efficient supply chain and operate fast and secure trade flows.
In conducting this mission Customs and Border Protection (CBP) faces many challenges: promoting a fast and effective cargo clearance process – something my colleague Senator Murray has been very involved in; reducing the importation of counterfeit goods; and coordinating information in federal agencies.
Gil has a very solid track record in interagency coordination and implementing new initiatives. Which I think, continuing to step up to the challenges are going to mean new processes. In 2009, he became the Director of National Drug Control Policy and he advised the President on this. And again, federal agencies needed the cooperation with local initiatives to make that work.
So all of this is going to be incredibly important. Lastly, Mr. Chairman, he has worked to advance very cost-effective programs in improving enforcement efforts. Again, I think that is always going to be the bottom line on Customs and Border Protection. We have to improve it. It has to be fast and efficient but we always have to do it in a cost-effective way too and these will be new initiatives.
I very much look forward to his nomination moving through the Senate and for the work he’s going to do continually for our nation.
Question and Answers
Senator Cantwell: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, Mr. Kerlikowske, thank you for your willingness to serve. My colleagues have already started on kind of a dual track of asking questions – obviously, speed is essential and so is security. That’s one of the reasons why I am excited about your nomination to this position -- because somebody who comes from the Pacific Northwest gets that so importantly.
Nothing said the importance of trade more than the falling down of the Skagit River Bridge and curtailing I-5 traffic and costing us hundreds of millions of dollars in lost opportunity practically daily. We have to get that right. Speed matters.
But I’m glad you mentioned the word transparency in your statement. That’s one of our goals. From a Pacific Northwest point of view, there are two words that are incredibly important to me and to my constituents. One is technology -- and the use of technology -- and the other is privacy.
And I’m hoping that in this position you’ll be able to further both of those issues and find the right balance. So, I wanted to ask you: Will you do everything to protect the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens on their rights to privacy in this position?
Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Nominee: Certainly, Senator, I would very much do that if I’m confirmed in this position. I think my history in Seattle in particular is helpful as police chief. I put in the cameras – the video cameras in police cars – so every police car would have an audio and visual recording of every traffic stop. We instituted a number of checks and balances.
And having been police chief there during 9/11 – you know that the City of Seattle operated under a unique intelligence oversight ombudsman agreement – similar to what existed in New York City under what’s called the Handschu Agreement. I was told that perhaps it would be time after 9/11 that that oversight mechanism – ombudsman – would not be as necessary given the threat of terrorism in the country. I looked at that very carefully and believed that we could very much operate and maintain a safe city at the same time we had transparency and the ombudsman to oversee our intelligence activities, and I would continue that at CBP.
Senator Cantwell: I think these issues are important. Obviously, CBP, prior to your nomination caught a lot of people off-guard on the Olympic Peninsula showing up in unmarked cars. People weren’t thinking they were 25 miles from the border. They were thinking they were out on a Sunday afternoon drive and next thing you know, they were being pulled over by someone – they didn’t even recognize the marking – so very important to this process.
But you might have seen the Washington Post today on unmanned aerial vehicles and the Commerce Committee is having a hearing this afternoon on unmanned aerial vehicles. Now, Customs and Border Protection can make great use of this technology – whether we’re talking about drug interdiction off the coast of Washington and helping the Coast Guard or our very porous borders that can’t have people everywhere.
But obviously, one of the big privacy concerns is that somehow, information will be collected and stored and accessed by other individuals that may invade the personal privacy rights of U.S. citizens. I hope that you will work as the head of this organization to pay attention to these privacy issues – that technology moves forward but we come up with a firm and solid ground for privacy rights of U.S. citizens under the 4th and 14th Amendment to be protected.
Mr. Kerlikowske: I very much understand that Senator and I would agree to that.
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