Napolitano tried to convince EU policymakers that unsuccessful attempts by terrorists to place explosive devices onboard aircraft have highlighted the need to engage the international community in countering the movement and deployment of weapons of mass destruction.
"Regardless of where a potential event might occur, the ripple effect of a significant disruption of this global system could potentially impact not just the United States but the entire international community," Napolitano said.
Since September 11, five attempted terrorist attacks on US airliners and airports have made airport security a continued priority for Washington. Shortly after the 2001 attacks, the US Congress passed the Aviation and Transport Security Act, which created the Transportation Security Administration, and billions of dollars have been poured into enhancing security measures, mostly for passengers.
Recently the US adopted full-body x-ray scanners and enhanced pat-down techniques that have enraged many passengers in the US and Europe alike.
In a recent press briefing, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström questioned the uneven balance between protecting national security and civil liberties. "We have to strike a balance between protecting people's civil liberties and national security but we went too far after 9/11 in tilting it towards security," she said, noting the move towards legislation was not properly thought through.
Now, the US is trying to improve cargo security. Napolitano announced yesterday a partnership with the World Customs Organisation to bring together other nations, international bodies and the private sector to boost the security of the global supply chain.
"Securing the global supply chain is part and parcel of securing both the lives of people around the world and the stability of the global economy," Napolitano said, stressing that the goal was to protect the supply chain system, including transport hubs, from attack and to make the system resilient to potential attacks.
The US homeland security chief stated that governments needed to make progress in three areas: information sharing and tracking of materials that can be used to make bombs - such as chemicals and explosives - protecting air, land and sea transport hubs, and bolstering the resilience of the supply chain.
"Trade needs to be up and running after any kind of event," she noted, arguing that world commerce cannot be held hostage by terrorists.
Currently, the US Department for Homeland Security requires screening of all cargo on passenger planes within and departing from the United States, as well as all US-bound high-risk air cargo.