Not Systemic Failure, But Failed System
Tom Barry | January 8, 2010
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
"Systemic failure" is how President Obama described the homeland security and intelligence lapses that led to the unsuccessful terrorist attack by a Nigerian Islamist on Dec. 25. The accuracy of this assessment was underscored by another intelligence failure that resulted in the death of seven CIA agents in Afghanistan on Dec. 30.
What is to be done?
Michael Chertoff, the head of the national security consulting agency Chertoff Group and former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), says buy and install more full-body scanners.
That may be part of the answer. But his public-private status—and the fact that under his tenure as DHS chief the department began buying scanners at an estimated $160,000 each from Rapiscan (a company Chertoff Group now represents)—is cause for skepticism. Rapiscan received $26.5 million through DHS contracts in 2008, and $41.4 million from all government departments.
It's unlikely, however, that attempts to fix our homeland security and intelligence system with new communications and screening systems can do much to improve a system that is increasingly driven more by private than public interests.
As Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, told the Washington Post: "Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected this particular type of explosive."
Chertoff is one in a stream of mid- and high-level national security officials who have left homeland security, intelligence, and defense positions to join national security corporations. Tom Ridge, Chertoff's predecessor at DHS, formed a national security consulting agency called Ridge Global.
One of the most recent national security start-ups is Rice Hadley Group, founded by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
Other new security companies formed by top Republican Party figures include Ashcroft Group founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Guiliani Group, formed by former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudolf Guiliani.
Chertoff Group is quickly becoming the most high-powered and deep-pocketed national security consulting firm.
Uh, that's Michael 'dual-passport' Chertoff...