Bonner to retire from Customs and Border Protection

Robert Bonner, who was commissioner of the U.S. Customs agency before it was folded into the Homeland Security Department, has announced he will retire from government service.

Bonner submitted his resignation letter earlier this week to President Bush. A retirement date has not been set, according to DHS officials.

In a statement released today, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said Bonner had been "instrumental in balancing our need to preserve the integrity of our borders, without sacrificing the free flow of commerce on which our nation and the global community depends.

Bonner, who was sworn in as customs commissioner Sept. 24, 2001, oversaw the merger of three agencies and 42,000 employees into the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Bonner often said that more needs to be done to improve security but always said the United States is more secure than it was before the 2001 terrorist attacks.

During his tenure, he created several high-profile programs and applications and accelerated several others to strengthen transport of cargo security over land and sea following the 2001 terrorist attacks. Those initiatives include:

• The Container Security Initiative, implemented in January 2002, which requires foreign ports to prescreen cargo before shipping it to the United States. It also identifies high-risk containers using a targeting system that analyzes electronic data, makes extensive use of X-ray and gamma technology and radiation-detection devices. The initiative currently involves 39 foreign ports.

• A test program that uses radio frequency identification tags to alert shippers and inspectors when it finds evidence that someone has tampered with a container.

• The Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, which is a voluntary partnership with industry to secure the international supply chain. In exchange for making certain security improvements to their supply systems, companies undergo reduced inspections.

• The $3.3 billion Automated Commercial Environment program, which is an import and export trade processing system that will consolidate a number of existing systems and enhance border security.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Bonner, a former federal judge and former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said he is considering returning to the Los Angeles law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, where he once supervised major white-collar crime investigations.

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