The 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea was the perfect opportunity for the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to reinforce Australia’s long-standing defence partnership with the United States.

In a speech at the ANU last Thursday, Secretary Napolitano spoke of a new phase of information sharing between the two allies. She also stressed a need for privacy, citing “the right to be left alone” as a core value in the formulation of US law.

The Secretary mentioned the need to continue strengthening anti-terrorism cooperation, but her comments suggest a slight shift towards a more consensus-driven approach.

At the heart of this new policy initiative, she said, is the role of ‘actionable intelligence’ shared between the US and its allies to regulate the flow of potential terrorist suspects.

In particular, Secretary Napolitano cited agreements with allies such as the EU to grant the United States access to passenger name records (PNR). These flight details can then be cross-checked with US records to prevent no known or suspected criminals fly into American airspace.

“Transparency is the cornerstone of international information sharing,” she added.

As part of this approach, a new immigration processing system called Global Entry allows travellers to undergo several security checks before flying to the US, significantly reducing immigration clearance time on arrival.

Secretary Napolitano also mentioned the Traveller Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP), which permits travellers to file complaints about the conduct of Homeland Security personnel and processes.

However, Secretary Napolitano also said she clearly sees allies such as Australia playing an important part in upholding the US’s border integrity.

“We are talking about joint national interests and shared values,” she said.

Secretary Napolitano concluded her visit to Australia by signing a new anti-terrorism agreement with Australian Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, aiming to strengthen checks on cargo and passenger flights travelling between Australia and the US.

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