July 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Homeland Security workers protecting borders and guarding against terrorists won’t be affected by a possible federal government shutdown in the event that Congress fails to raise the federal debt ceiling.
“We continue to operate regardless of any budget debt ceiling,” Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano said today at a press briefing in Vienna. “We are exceptional and necessary, so our operations continue.”
Failure to raise the debt ceiling would complicate the U.S. government’s ability to finance its activities. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are locked in a budget showdown over government services, taxes and debt. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said yesterday that Congress has “no option” other than to approve an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
Napolitano commented after she met with military and civilian security advisers at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. She traveled to the Austrian capital to pursue greater international cooperation investigating and prosecuting cybercrime.
“The protections of the legal systems, both domestic and transnational, have not kept pace with the technology,” Napolitano said. “We’ve had to scramble.”
The Homeland Security Department is investigating attacks on government websites, she said, while declining to provide details about the probe. Computer networks are also fueling domestic terrorism risks, she said.
“I have seen an increase in the number of violent extremists” inside the U.S., Napolitano said. “While the Internet has a lot of good things, it is also an accelerant” for extremists.
--Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, Andrew Atkinson
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