'You Did Us Proud'
When the staff of the National Targeting Center-Passenger first realized they had found Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, it set off a dizzying flurry of action.
"The first call came in, and before we knew it, it was 10 the next morning," said Petra Horne, who was one of two watch commanders in the NTC-P on May 3, 2010. "It took some time before the gravity of the situation was clear."
Horne, now the director of enforcement policy in admissibility and passenger programs in the Office of Field Operations, was one of more than 20 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and other staff who were honored at a ceremony today for their work in finding and apprehending the bomber, who was minutes away from escaping the country.
"The National Targeting Center is a national treasure," said CBP Commissioner Alan D. Bersin. "This institution gives reality to the notion that we must inspect people and cargo as far away and as early possible, and this achievement reflects an extraordinary capacity that we've built."
Among those honored were members of the Office of Information and Technology, the Office of Intelligence and Investigative Liaison as well as the CBP officers and Border Patrol agent involved in uncovering Shahzad's whereabouts.
By combining information shared among intelligence and law enforcement partners with cutting-edge technological tools and the know-how and vigilance of officers checking and re-checking information, NTC-P is able to stop criminals and potential terrorists from entering or exiting the country every day.
"This is a great example of how we can all come together, across our agency, for a successful result," said Thomas Winkowski, Office of Field Operations assistant commissioner. "Without any of these pieces, we would not have had this success."
Based on intelligence information received about the car Shahzad used in the bombing, the NTC-P was able to identify him and begin a lookout for his attempt to flee the country. Within 52 hours of the bombing, the NTC-P identified the flight he planned to use to escape, and jumped into action, notifying CBP personnel at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Thanks to the work of NTC-P staff, CBP officers arrested Shahzad, who is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the attack, a fact Bersin noted as the awards were presented.
CBP officers who took part in the events that day received the Blue Eagle award, while others received similar honors and awards for their efforts in support of the NTC-P. Horne and other awardees noted that, ultimately, the work they did leading to Shahzad's arrest was simply part of their work.
"What we do in CBP is not just a job," said Horne. "It's a mission. When you put on a uniform or set foot in the office, you have a duty and you have to do it to the best of your ability. It's a privilege for each of us to be honored, but in the end, this is our mission."
For Bersin and the other senior leaders present at the event, though, it was clear that this instance served as a reminder of the importance of that mission.
"In the last 10 years, a paradigm shift of massive importance to the American people has taken place," he said. "Speaking on behalf more than 60,000 employees of CBP, but also as a father, as a husband, and as an American, I say this: Thank you. You did us proud."
-- by Jay Mayfield, Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.