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Napolitano counterterror policy: Public must play a role

The Homeland Security secretary emphasized that security must be balanced with civil liberties.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Wednesday.

Seth Wenig/AP

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Wednesday called for all Americans to help prevent the next terrorist attack and pushed for more information-sharing across government to "build a culture of collective awareness and preparation."

In one of her first major speeches since she took the job, Secretary Napolitano hinted at a "new thinking" on how to tackle terrorist threats to the homeland, though she offered few substantive details. She stressed, however, that the new policy would have to balance the needs of security with the American values of individual liberty.

"As I discuss a culture of awareness, individual preparedness, the ability to identify suspicious activities and the like, there's a careful balance to be struck between that and a feeling like we're trying to create a culture of everybody spying on one another," she said, in answer to a question about domestic surveillance. "We don't want that."

In the past, the Bush administration's homeland security policy has in been criticized for emphasizing security over civil liberty.

Specifically, Napolitano said she has deployed 36 intelligence specialists to help build a system of 70 intelligence "fusion centers" to foster better information-sharing across the country. Distrust and lack of cooperation has long been a feature of the intelligence community.

That has created information gaps, withholding information from the people who need it the most. Napolitano vowed to fight this old bureaucratic thorn by encouraging more departments to work together. She also emphasized greater collaboration with companies that control vital services such as power plants and communication system.

"It is a legacy we can no longer afford," she said, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

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