Nation’s counterterrorism measures are strengthened

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 - Page 1

The government is keeping track of possible entry into the country by individuals suspected of involvement in international terrorism and is planning to set up biometric identification systems to strengthen security at its borders, National Immigration Agency Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) said yesterday.

Hsieh made the remarks while fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee at the legislature in Taipei.

The agency has access to a list of suspected terrorists and maintains regular contacts with its counterparts in other countries, Hsieh said.

Hsieh said that a biometric identification system for foreigners would be installed at Kaohsiung International Airport in December in a pilot project for a plan to have the facility set up in all airports in the country. The agency has asked for NT$180 million (US$6 million) for the project, he said.

Since March 2011, the e-Gate system, which utilizes biometric identification technology to identify people through fingerprints and facial features, has been operating in several major airports. The system applies only to Republic of China passports holders and those holding permanent residence permits.

Separately, National Security Bureau Deputy Director-General Wang Teh-lin (王德麟) said the Presidential Office is capable of intercepting any letter containing toxic substances that is addressed to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Wang made the remarks following reports that letters addressed to US President Barack Obama and other US officials have recently tested positive for the poison ricin.

Wang said the Presidential Office has a unit charged with handling such matters.

“All correspondence to the Presidential Office has to pass security tests in accordance with the regulations,” Wang said in response to media queries before attending a meeting of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee meeting at the legislature discussing strengthening anti-terrorism measures.

The bureau added that the government, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, would step up its counterterrorism measures for the 2017 Universiade in Taipei.

Saying that international sports events and activities are easy targets for terrorists, Wang added the bureau would work closely with the Cabinet and the Taipei City Government to tighten security for the Universiade and ensure that the event proceeds safely and peacefully.

So far, the bureau has not detected any recruitment activities in Taiwan involving foreign extremist organizations, nor are there cases in which Taiwanese have received terrorist training.

However, there have been several terror hoaxes, including a 2011 e-mail threat, claiming to be from the US white supremacist group Aryan Nations, to carry out a chemical attack on Taipei 101, Wang said.

The failed explosive devices placed on a high-speed train and outside a legislator’s office on Friday last week are not considered attempts at terrorism, given that the suspects did not have any contact with or received training from any extremist organization, he said.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Chwen-jinq (陳純敬), in response to criticism that the evacuation of the train on Friday was too slow, said the ministry would review evacuation measures for the nation’s railway systems and submit a report on the matter within a month.

Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) added that his ministry would draft a counterterrorism law within three months.