EMAIL PAGE FIVE
COLUMN SEVENTY-FOUR, AUGUST 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND INSECURITY
NYTimes.com Article: Department of Homeland Insecurity
Date: Sat, 8 Jun 2002 12:54:36 -0400 (EDT)
of Homeland Insecurity
it comes to striking terror in a White House waging a war on terrorism, Osama
bin Laden has nothing on a forthright American woman spilling her guts on
week began, you may distantly recall, with George W. Bush telling Americans that
the F.B.I. and C.I.A. were now in "close communication" - even as they
seemed to be mainly in close communication with the press, with each agency
rabidly planting leaks to scapegoat the other for pre-Sept.-11 incompetence. As
further reassurance, Mr. Bush added that he had "seen no evidence to date
that said this country could have prevented the attack" - even though less
than a week earlier his own F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller, had said his agency
might have been sitting on just such evidence.
Bush presented this rosy picture on Tuesday. On Wednesday Arlen Specter, a
Republican, told CBS that the government possessed not just unconnected dots
before Sept. 11 but a "veritable blueprint" for impending terrorist
acts. On Thursday morning, just hours before the F.B.I. agent Coleen Rowley
began to testify about why that blueprint was ignored, the administration
announced the creation of yet another new scheme to fix everything the White
House had previously claimed to be already on the mend.
the new Department of Homeland Security an antidote to a broken system? Or is it
merely a hastily contrived antidote to Ms. Rowley's TV debut, knocking her out
of the evening-news lead lest she wreak damage on this Bush administration akin
to what Anita Hill, appearing before the same committee, inflicted on the first?
It's not Ari Fleischer but Al Qaeda that will ultimately provide the answer.
is clear is that the White House has lost control of a hagiographic story line
that, as codified everywhere from Annie Leibovitz's triumphalist photos in
Vanity Fair to a multipart series co-written by Bob Woodward at The Washington
Post, portrayed it as a steely, no-nonsense team of razor-sharp executives
running government like a crack Fortune 500 corporation. When it comes to
domestic security, the administration turns out to mirror America's C.E.O.
culture all right - but not that of Thomas Watson's I.B.M. or Jack Welch's
General Electric so much as that laid bare by the dot-com crash. It's a slipshod
business culture in which arrogant C.E.O.'s, held accountable by no one
(including their own boards), cash out just before their own bad deals take
their companies south. It's the culture that has wrecked Americans' trust in the
market and that this week prompted Henry M. Paulson Jr., the chief of Goldman
Sachs, to speak out, chastising "the activities and behavior of some
C.E.O.'s" and concluding, "I cannot think of a time when business over
all has been held in less repute."
Paulson, whose firm's clients include Global Crossing and Tyco, didn't name
names. I'll name one: Dick Cheney, who from 1995 to 2000 ran Halliburton, the
energy services company whose stock collapsed after he went to Washington.
are the ones who know what's going on in their companies," said Paul
O'Neill, the Treasury secretary, in a blistering February speech. "There's
no excuse for them not to know." But this tough talk doesn't apply to Mr.
O'Neill's own peers in the administration. We are asked to believe that Mr.
Cheney didn't know what was happening at his own company - he was a
"hands-off" manager, says one Halliburton crony - much as Ken Lay, in
the words of his wife, Linda, "wasn't told" about what was going down
those of us without a stake in Halliburton, it's not our problem. What is
everyone's problem is the extent to which Mr. Cheney brought his management
style into the White House. No one seems to remember anymore that President Bush
put Mr. Cheney in charge of not one but two task forces last year. The first, of
course, was the energy task force, whose secret deliberations have landed the
vice president in court. But even more intriguing is the second. On May 8, 2001,
the president charged Mr. Cheney with overseeing a "national effort"
to coordinate all federal programs for responding to domestic attacks in league
with a new Office of National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management
day the vice president went on CNN to explain his duty. After noting that
"one of our biggest threats as a nation" may include "a terrorist
organization overseas," Mr. Cheney said: "We need to look at this
whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense. The president's asked me
to take on the responsibility of overseeing all of that, reviewing the plans
that are out there today."
Mr. Cheney take on that responsibility with the same urgency with which he met
with Enron executives to develop energy policy? A FEMA spokesman this week said
that the Office of National Preparedness was up and running by early
the vice president to be quizzed about his pre-Sept.-11 efforts at preparedness,
he'd likely either invoke secrecy or impugn the questioner's patriotism. But
he's not the only one who avoids accountability for past inaction. After Mr.
Mueller told the Judiciary Committee on Thursday of the F.B.I.'s primitive
DOS-era computer capabilities, Charles Schumer, the Democrat from New York,
indignantly asked, "But how was it we were so far behind the curve that it
was almost laughable?"
answer is that the Judiciary Committee, in charge of F.B.I. oversight, was
itself asleep. As Ronald Kessler, the author of "The Bureau," points
out, it was no secret that the technophobic director of the Clinton years, Louis
Freeh, refused even to use e-mail himself, let alone make it viable for his
agents to do so.
cure Mr. Bush now proposes for such ailments - a big new federal bureaucracy
with 169,000 employees that stands apart from the F.B.I. and C.I.A.
bureaucracies - is still another avoidance of accountability and still another
repudiation of the efficient, lean-government corporate Republicanism that he
supposedly champions. (No wonder Democratic leaders are falling over each other
to take credit for thinking of it first.)
Rube Goldberg contraption will take months to pass in some form and may not be
in action before Google arrives at the F.B.I. It allegedly requires no new funds
(a feat to be achieved only by Enron off-balance-sheet bookkeeping) and
reshuffles the same deck of lightweights we have now. That includes the
irrepressible John Ashcroft, who this week announced a plan to have the I.N.S.
fingerprint 100,000 Middle Eastern visa holders. The day after he did so, his
own department's inspector general testified before Congress that the I.N.S. and
F.B.I. were still "years away" from integrating the fingerprint files
already in their possession.
of creating a new organizational chart, Mr. Bush might have enlisted one man to
hose down our security bureaucracy: Rudolph Giuliani. Instead of speechifying
that "only the United States Congress can create a new department of
government," he might have followed the suggestion of Stansfield Turner,
the former C.I.A. chief who, like others, has called for the president,
"with a stroke of the pen," to give the director of central
intelligence the authority to coordinate the 14 entities in our intelligence
apparatus. Rather than take such old-time C.E.O.-style action, the president
wrapped himself in the mantle of Harry Truman. These days that's a sure sign
that the buck-passing will never stop.
2002 The New York Times Company ##
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