Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chertoff's Ethical Irritability

The Honorable Michael Chertoff spoke to students and faculty at the University of Southern California's CREATE Homeland Security Center.  CREATE stands for Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events.  It has 24 partners, 22 in the U.S.

Chertoff's remarked on emerging security challenges, based on three trends:

1.  Globalization--including travel, trade, finance and communications
2.  Weapons of mass destruction terrorist capability--formerly available to nation states
3.  Ungoverned space--physical territory like Somalia, tribal areas of Pakistan (not financial shadow bankers, deadly Chinese manufacturers or U.S. political corruption)

He believes terrorists are the same threat as former nation state enemies.  The central threat to America comes from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.  Chertoff believes Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic radicals and a nuclear Iran would use its capabilities or near capabilities for geopolitical leverage.  He noted they willingly armed terrorist groups in Iraq and sees Iran proliferating nuclear material for terrorist use

Chertoff superficially addressed the cargo bombs emanating from Yemen.  He noted planes were the target, not the physical address on the package.  However, he implied that cargo and passenger planes were totally separate, which missed the fact that cargo frequently flies on passenger jets. Why did Chertoff gloss over something he knows deeply about?  Chertoff Group's Jayson Ahern later filled the gap.

Other threats include Venezuela's Huge Chavez, Ecuador's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.  Add Mexican drug cartels, international crime organizations (like FARC) and cyberthreats. While Chertoff charged hard on FARC, he went light on FARC funder, Chiquita Banana.

Michael Chetoff's other hats include white collar crime defense.  He helped Columbia/HCA navigate civil and criminal investigations for fraudulent billing.  Chertoff's work enabled Columbia/HCA CEO Rick Scott to win the Florida governorship in the last election.

Chertoff holds board positions in homeland security contractors, Clear and BAE Systems.   Clear is rejuvenating a subscription service that allows people to jump to the head of airport security lines by submitting to a fingerprint or iris scan.  BAE offers face and iris recognition that works on people on the move. At CREATE, Chertoff noted there are better ways to clear people.

On the need for body scanning, which he pushed in 2005, he said:

"They (terrorists) are counting on the reluctance of people, when they do a search, to really get into those private areas of the body."

Nearly a decade of TSA and how many bombs have they found via screening?  Micheal Chertoff cited one and he clarified that as "bomb components."

Micheal Chertoff declared his conflicts of interest at CREATE.

"Also, so the cynics don't get wound up, my firm has, over time, you know, represented people, advised people in the area of scanning and every other kind of security device you can imagine.  So, you have that disclosure."
The Honorable Michael Chertoff failed to disclose his personal conflicts of interest.  Board slots usually come with salary and equity positions.  Chertoff did not say he held stock in or was paid by Clear, BAE Systems or other homeland security contractor, current or hopeful.  The Chertoff Group had an agreement with BioNeutral, which included equity compensation.  Chertoff Group terminated the agreement in June 2010.

At CREATE, Chertoff lamented "political irritability" and a "poisonous political atmosphere."  He stated he would rise above the din, yet offered a condescending rant which declared no specific conflicts of interest.

Chertoff stated that airline cargo and port containers didn't need 100% inspection, but could be sampled based on risk criteria, i.e. profiling.  Why does that work for shipping but not for people?  He didn't say.

Chertoff suggested providing liability protections for those undertaking risk management.  How might Chertoff Group clients benefit from dumping lawsuit risk?

While Micheal Chertoff has the right to silence on his specific conflicts of interest, citizens have the right to be groped, but not to sue for molestation.

To see the depths of Chertoff's pathology, read his op-ed on Katrina, where over 1,800 American lives were lost.  Michael speaks of Lessons Learned.  Neither he nor Frances Townsend ever answered my longstanding questions regarding the abysmal response or incompetent investigative report.  From my chair, Chertoff lives in ungoverned space, where the powerful protect their own.

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