Michael Chertoff's Conflict Of Interest

As Steve Benen points out, it seems Michael Chertoff along with The Washington Post are having some conflict of interest problems--PAGE 7 VS PAGE 15:
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As Steve Benen points out, it seems Michael Chertoff along with The Washington Post are having some conflict of interest problems--PAGE 7 VS PAGE 15:

The Washington Post reports today, on page A7, that Michael Chertoff, the former DHS secretary, has been playing a little fast and loose with the public trust.

Since the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.

What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.

An airport passengers' rights group on Thursday criticized Chertoff, who left office less than a year ago, for using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients.

"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," said Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, which opposes the use of the scanners.

As Steve notes, that same paper allowed Chertoff a 736-word op-ed calling for expanding the whole-body imaging technology. No, it's not just you Steve. There is a huge disconnect between pages A15 and A7. It seems the Washington Post has as bad a case of dissociative identity disorder as the rest of our corporate media.

At least Campbell Brown bothered to point out the conflict during the CNN interview. That doesn't explain why they still brought him on when they know he's going to profit from the technology being expanded.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

BROWN: But what the president said, though, was systemic failure, you know, bigger than one guy dropping the ball. Or at least from what he seems to know -- and presumably, he knows more than any of the rest of us.

So, talk me through some of the specifics, given what we know. How do you think the system should have worked?

CHERTOFF: Here's what -- here's the way it should work, and normally does work.

You get all kinds of intelligence or information from the field. Some of it is very unreliable or questionable. Some of it is much more reliable.

Whatever it is, it has to be written up in a report and sent by a reports officer up the chain to headquarters, and then through the National Counterterrorism Center, which is the agency set up a few years ago by Congress, to collect and integrate all the information. All the various scraps of information are brought together.

And then an evaluation has to take place. Is it reliable? Is it specific? Does it suggest that some action has to be taken? And then, of course, if it is sufficiently specific and reliable, action should be taken.

So, at any point along that chain, people have the responsibility for making sure that they are accurately and fully reporting what they've learned.

And then there are going to be some judgments that have to be made about whether and what action ought to be taken, based on the information.

BROWN: Bigger picture, what do we do to protect ourselves? Clearly, the systems in place didn't work, if somebody was able to get that far in the process.

When we talk about screenings at the airport and other protective mechanisms along the way, what should we be doing that clearly were not?

CHERTOFF: Well, Campbell, the strategy recognizes that there's always going to be human error in any system. You can't count on perfection. And that's why we built a strategy at the Department of Homeland Security of what we call "layered security" -- a number of different layers, so that even if one fails, another one gets picked up.

It's complicated here, of course, because the actual screening took place overseas, where the U.S. ability to control what goes on is obviously not the same as it is here.

But there are a few things we could do to make things better.

First, we could deploy the scanning machines that we currently are beginning to deploy in the U.S., that will give us the ability to see what someone has concealed underneath their clothing. That has been vigorously opposed by the ACLU and privacy advocates. The House of Representatives voted to prevent us from using it.

But I think now there's been a very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery.

BROWN: OK. Can I stop you there for a second?

CHERTOFF: Yes.

BROWN: I know you've been an advocate of this technology for a long time.

CHERTOFF: Correct.

BROWN: But just, in the interest of full disclosure, I also want to point out, in your current role as a security consultant, you are representing some of the companies who manufacture that technology. Correct?

CHERTOFF: Absolutely correct, yes.

BROWN: OK. Go ahead.

CHERTOFF: A second thing is, it apparently is the case the British did revoke the visa for this individual earlier this year. That information may not have been communicated to American authorities. Why is that? Because the European Union has been very, very adamant in refusing to share information about immigration problems that they discover with American authorities.

So, we've got to go back to the E.U. and fight this fight all over again, and tell them that their exalting privacy over security could very well have resulted in a tragedy that would have killed Europeans as well as Americans. So, that's another measure we could put into place to help cure this problem.

The third thing is, we're going to have to go back and see whether we need to light a fire under some of the people involved in the reporting process, to make sure that they move with urgency and with accuracy when they get reports of the kind that we saw apparently came into the Nigerian embassy.

BROWN: There has also been a renewed debate about racial profiling here. I know you have been opposed to this. And it's not for civil liberties -- or not only, I guess, for civil liberties reasons -- but largely because you don't think it's effective.

Explain your reasoning.

CHERTOFF: Well, the problem is that the profile many people think they have of what a terrorist is doesn't fit the reality. Actually, this individual probably does not fit the profile that most people assume is the terrorist who comes from either South Asia or an Arab country.

Richard Reid didn't fit that profile. Some of the bombers or would-be bombers in the plots that were foiled in Great Britain don't fit the profile. And in fact, one of the things the enemy does it to deliberately recruit people who are Western in background or in appearance, so that they can slip by people who might be stereotyping.

So, I think the danger is, we get lulled into a false sense of security, if we profile based on appearance.

What I do think is important is to look at behavior. And that's something that we are doing and should continue to do more of.

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