Saturday, January 30, 2010

Senator Collins- World Economic Forum in Davos

Senator Collins is blogging from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

This year was the first time I was invited to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. I am speaking as a panelist during three different sessions and have just finished the first one, "Securing Cyberspace." It was interesting being the one political leader on a panel of technical experts, including Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, Paul Sagan, who runs Akamai Technologies, an MIT spin-off, Hamadoun Toure, the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva, and Andre Kydelski, the CEO of a Swiss computer security firm. The panel was moderated by Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard Law professor whose expertise is cybersecurity.
We discussed issues ranging from the problem of determining who is really behind a computer attack (the "attribution" problem) to whether an attack on a nation's electric grid would constitute an act of war. We discussed possible legislative and international responses to strengthen cybersecurity.

Microsoft's Craig Mundie emphasized personal responsibility and said that 20 percent of PCs have no security, which allows them to be hijacked and used in attacks on other computers. He advocated that people be "licensed" to operate computers just as we are licensed to drive cars.

The two European panelists advocated greater international cooperation building on the European Convention on CyberCrime.

In the audience was a former U.S. Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, who asked me about the possibility of the Senate passing an international treaty on cybersecurity, if one were to be drafted, or absent that, a cybersecurity bill for the U.S. Our Homeland Security Committee is working on such legislation, but there are many obstacles to overcome.

Senator Collins delivers weekly Republican address

Full transcript of Senator Collins' address:

“Less than one hour. That’s right, less than one hour.

“In fact, just fifty minutes.

“That’s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning Abdulmutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

“Then, he was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking.

“How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?

“On Christmas Day, the skies above Detroit became a battleground in the War on Terrorism.

“That day the bomb being carried by Abdulmutallab failed to detonate. Thanks to the courageous action of the passengers and crew, nearly 300 lives were saved on the plane and more lives were spared on the ground.

“The government’s security system, a front line in the war against terrorists, failed long before Abdulmutallab boarded his flight to the United States.

“It failed when his visa wasn’t revoked, even though his father had warned our embassy in Nigeria about his son’s ties to Islamic extremists.

“It failed when the intelligence community was unable to connect the dots that would have placed Abdulmutallab on the terrorist watchlist.

“It failed when this terrorist stepped on to the plane in Amsterdam with the same explosive used by the ‘Shoe Bomber,’ Richard Reid, more than 8 years ago.

“But, today, I want to discuss another failure – a failure that occurred after Abdulmutallab had already been detained by authorities in Detroit – an error that undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country.

“This failure occurred when the Obama Justice Department unilaterally decided to treat this foreign terrorist as an ordinary criminal.

Abdulmutallab was questioned for less than one hour before the Justice Department advised him that he could remain silent and offered him an attorney at our expense.

“Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist ‘lawyered up’ and stopped talking.

“When the Obama administration decided to treat Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation’s top intelligence officials.

“The Director of National Intelligence was not consulted.

“The Secretary of Defense was not consulted.

“The Secretary of Homeland Security was not consulted.

“The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center was not consulted.

“They would have explained the importance of gathering all possible intelligence about Yemen, where there is a serious threat from terrorists whose sights are trained on this nation. They would have explained the critical nature of learning all we could from Abdulmutallab. But they were never asked.

“President Obama recently used the phrase that ‘we are at war’ with terrorists. But unfortunately his rhetoric does not match the actions of his administration.

“The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.

“And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them, fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day.

“There’s no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab’s interrogation. There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal.

“This charade must stop. Foreign terrorists are enemy combatants and they must be treated as such. The safety of the American people depends on it.

“I’m Senator Susan Collins from Maine. Thank you for listening.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

Responding to the Crisis in Haiti

Weekly column by Senator Susan Collins

The devastation in Haiti is of unconceivable magnitude. The images and news reports are unbearable to watch, and the distress, suffering, and loss of the people of that devastated island are heartbreaking.

America is responding to this grave humanitarian crisis it always does – with everything it has and in every way it can. Our valiant military personnel are on the scene, saving lives and bringing relief. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are pouring into the country with their skills, compassion, and dedication. Throughout our nation and across our state, collection baskets, benefit events, and telethons are overflowing with the generosity of our people, even in these difficult economic times here at home.

I have dedicated resources of my offices to aid in this effort. My staff-- here in Maine and in Washington—is working closely with constituents who have family and loved ones in Haiti. They are in constant contact with State Department officials and international relief organizations to locate the missing and to expedite their evacuation to the United States.

Here are just a few examples. A Maine couple had been in the process of adopting two Haitian boys, ages six and two. Working with the State Department, we were able to determine that the boys are safe and being cared for in an orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince, and that they are awaiting military transport to the U.S. Currently, we are working with two other families, in Winthrop and Pittsfield, to accelerate travel for Haitian children they are in the process of adopting.

We are working to bring about the return of an 11-month-old girl, who had been living with extended family in Haiti, to her parents in York County. After being contacted by her sister in Saco and by working through the U.S. Embassy, we were able to assist a 72-year-old nun in evacuating Haiti. We also have helped a family in Wayne locate their son who was in Haiti with a small group from his college, and assisted a Rockport woman in providing her brother, a priest, with information on evacuating his mission group to the Dominican Republic. And we assisted in locating a young woman from Eddington who had been visiting friends in Haiti and in providing information on how to return home.

In addition, I have joined a bipartisan group of member of Congress urging President Obama to require that federal agencies provide for the safe and swift evacuation of orphaned children in Haiti. It is essential that federal agencies work with the greatest possible speed to bring the estimated 600 to 700 orphans who have been granted humanitarian parole to their waiting adoptive U.S. families.

On Jan. 18, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would extend humanitarian parole to those Haitian orphans with established adoptive relationships with U.S. families so that these orphans could travel immediately to the United States. In the days following the announcement, however, federal agencies failed to put forth a coordinated logistical plan to assure these orphans’ immediate safety, efficient immigration processing and exit to the U.S. Without such a plan, desperate American citizens will put themselves or the children they are seeking to adopt at risk in attempting evacuations on their own.

This delay is a direct result of a lack of inter-agency coordination and communication to the public, and of ad-hoc processing of travel documents by the U.S. Embassy. With the most innocent and helpless of lives at stake, this is no time for bureaucratic delay. I will continue to push for better cooperation and more rapid processing of essential documents.

A powerful earthquake has left the people of Haiti with an awful burden of loss, despair and ruin. Working together, with all of us doing what we can and as much as we can, we will at least help ensure our Haitian neighbors that it is a burden they do not bear alone.


Recovery Act funding will be used to upgrade 30 miles of track between Portland and Brunswick

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) $35 million in High-Speed Rail Grants to be used to rehabilitate 30 miles of track to extend Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service from Portland to Brunswick.

“This is welcome news to Mainers and visitors alike,” said Senators Snowe and Collins in a joint statement. “Since its inception, the Downeaster service has enjoyed steady ridership increases, providing tremendous benefits to Maine, including reducing road congestion, cleaner air, commuting options, and easier access to the state for tourists and economic development opportunities for businesses and communities. Extending this critical rail service to Brunswick will not only build upon the these successes but also create jobs and further boost tourism in the Midcoast region, giving the Brunswick area, which is coping with the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, a much-needed economic shot in the arm.”

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said, “The expansion of Downeaster service to Brunswick will have a lasting impact on Maine and on northern New England. In addition to making the Downeaster service more viable and efficient, it will create jobs, generate tourism, stimulate economic development and provide greater connectivity and mobility throughout the region. This is an exciting time for passenger rail in America, and we are honored to be included in the first round of this investment package.”

The funding is being distributed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which Senators Snowe and Collins worked to craft with a bipartisan group of senators last year. According to the NNEPRA, the expansion of Downeaster Service north to Freeport and Brunswick will further increase ridership by tens of thousands of individuals and take millions of passenger miles off Maine roads every year. Significantly, it enhances the efficiency of the service by reducing operating costs on a per passenger basis and maximizing the utility of existing equipment and labor pools. In addition to transportation benefits, expanding the Downeaster to Freeport and Brunswick will provide significant economic benefits to the region both in the near term and for years to come. It will support tourism, Maine’s largest industry, by creating a link between Boston and downtown Freeport, encouraging private development, potentially creating hundreds of jobs, and offers critical support to the redevelopment efforts that are ongoing at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, all the while providing connectivity to mid-coast Maine.


Albion, Arrowsic, Sebago, Bangor, North Lakes, Hodgdon, Jackman, Litchfield, Mapleton, Passadumkeag, Gouldsboro and Stoneham to Receive Assistance to Firefighter Grants

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today announced that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded $592,810 in grant funding to eleven Maine fire departments. The funding is provided through the "Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program," or FIRE Act.

“Our career and volunteer firefighters are among our bravest public servants. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is an extremely critical source of funds for our fire and rescue personnel,” said Senator Collins. “Since the creation of this program, Maine fire departments have been awarded more than $50 million to help purchase new, used, or refurbished vehicles, and to obtain equipment for firefighting, interoperable communications, chemical detection, and other purposes that are essential to first responders.”

The following fire departments is being awarded funding through the Vehicle Acquisition Program, which helps local departments purchase equipment such as pumpers, brush trucks, tankers/tenders, rescue vehicles, ambulances, aerials, foam units and fire boats.

o Arrowsic Fire Department--- $190,000

o Litchfield Fire Department-- $118,750

Additionally, funding will be distributed to the following Maine fire departments through the Operations and Firefighting Safety Program, which consists of training, equipment, wellness and fitness, and modifications to the departments’ facilities.

o Albion Volunteer Fire Department-- $70,728

o Sebago Fire Department--$19,252

o Bangor Fire Department-- $36,000

o North Lakes Fire Department (Aroostook County)-- $36,100

o Hodgdon Fire Department-- $38,000

o Jackman-Moose River Fire Department-- $7,410

o Mapleton Fire Department-- $34,675

o Passadumkeag Fire Department-- $19,095

o Gouldsboro Fire Department-- $12,540

o Stoneham Fire Department-- $10,260

Senator Collins strongly supported the creation of the FIRE Act Grant program. These grants are awarded to fire departments across the United States to increase the effectiveness of firefighting operations, firefighter health and safety programs, emergency medical service programs, and Fire Prevention and Safety programs, and to purchase new fire equipment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Senators Pressure Federal Agencies to Develop Safe, Swift Evacuation of Orphan Children In Haiti

U.S. Senator Susan Collins joined a bipartisan group of 15 Senators and 35 House members in sending a letter to the Obama Administration asking for greater collaboration between the federal agencies in an effort to evacuate the 600 to 700 orphans who have been granted humanitarian parole. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Designate Rajiv Shah, these members of Congress stressed the need for a plan to swiftly evacuate orphans safely to their adoptive U.S. families.

The letter was co-signed by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Michael Bennet (D-CO.), Kit Bond (R-MO), Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), John Ensign (R-NV), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John McCain (R-AZ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Udall (D-CO).

“In our view, the chaos that has ensued is a direct result of a lack of logistical inter-agency coordination, a lack of communication to the public, and ad-hoc processing of travel documents by the U.S. Embassy,” the members of Congress wrote. “Therefore, we are writing to ask for your personal assurances that the State Department, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency on International Development, puts in place a plan to directly ensure that ALL of the 600-700 orphans affected by Monday's announcement of humanitarian parole are safely and efficiently evacuated within the next ten days.”

On January 18, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would extend humanitarian parole to those Haitian orphans with established adoptive relationships with U.S. adoptive families so that these orphans could travel immediately to the United States.

However, in the three days following the announcement, federal agencies have yet to put forth a coordinated logistical plan to assure these orphans’ immediate safety, efficient immigration processing and exit to the U.S. Without such a plan, American citizens will put themselves or the children they are seeking to adopt at risk in attempting an evacuation, the Senators argued.

“Over the past four days, we, along with several other congressional offices have been urging State Department, USAID and Homeland Security officials to consider the consequences of making this announcement without a plan that ensured safe and efficient processing and travel for these children,” the letter says. “Despite our best efforts, over 350 American families are now desperate and many are trying to independently evacuate their children. At the same time, orphanage directors, who are also lacking the information and support they need to protect the children in their care, are leaving the orphanages in search of help.”

“Understandably, families are anxious to bring their children to the United States where they can personally assure their safety, said Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). “If they are not given the benefit of a clear U.S. government led plan to do that, then they will come up with one of their own. Given the situation on ground, it is in no one’s best interest for 350 or so American families to be planning individual rescue missions.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Senator Collins' statement on Scott Brown's election

Senator Collins released the following statement about the election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate:

“I congratulate Scott Brown on his victory in Massachusetts and look forward to welcoming him to the United States Senate. This election is an indication that voters in Massachusetts, indeed a majority of Americans, want checks and balances and do not support unfettered, one-party rule in Washington. The results of this election also reflect the fact that so many people are appalled at the process by which the health care bill was negotiated behind closed doors, rammed through the Senate with limited debate and amendments, and riddled with special deals to garner votes. People are frustrated with these tactics. They want their elected officials to set partisan politics aside and work together to forge solutions to the many challenges facing our country, particularly the need to strengthen the economy.”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Collins and Lieberman to hold hearings in wake of Christmas Day terrorist attack

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Friday announced the witness list for the first in a series of hearings the Committee will hold to discuss how to further improve the nation’s security in light of the Christmas Day terrorist attack.
The Committee will hear from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter on Wednesday, January 20, on the intelligence reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission in its final report on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“We are grateful to Secretary Napolitano, Director Blair and Director Leiter for agreeing to testify before our Committee to discuss the reforms made after 9/11 relevant to the Christmas Day attack, including changes in areas such as intelligence analysis, information sharing, watch-listing, border security and aviation security,” Senator Lieberman said. “We are especially interested in the progress of the intelligence reforms that were made in 2004 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, including the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center.
“As the President noted, while enforcement and intelligence communities have worked successfully together to disrupt several plots against our country, the intelligence to discover and disrupt the plot, masterminded by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was available to our government. But it was not pieced together. We will ask Admiral Blair and Director Leiter why the intelligence community was unable to bring together pieces of intelligence held by various agencies to detect this plot and whether the DNI and NCTC have the authority to integrate the intelligence community into a single, integrated enterprise.
“From Secretary Napolitano, we will want to know how - even after reforms designed to prevent it - Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to exploit passenger pre-screening systems and the international aviation security system to board a plane bound for the United States with an explosive device.”
Senator Collins said: “Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, much has been done to improve the performance of our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement agencies. Bureaucratic stovepipes that precluded information sharing have been dismantled, and collaboration has increased. As a direct result of these reforms, terrorist plots, both at home and abroad, have been thwarted.
“But human error, poor judgments, outmoded systems, and the sheer volume of data can still cause failures in the government’s ability to detect and detect terrorist plots as the recent attacks at Fort Hood and on Christmas Day demonstrate.