Editorial: Good idea gone wrong

There are some stories that you watch develop and you can almost predict the ending. That was the case with the for-profit forum for government and private-sector chief information security officers.

The CISO Exchange was spearheaded by Steve O'Keeffe, principal of O'Keeffe and Co., an Alexandria, Va.-based public relations firm. The group quickly became the subject of much buzz because of the perception that companies — some of which paid as much as $75,000 to be members — were buying access to policy-makers.

Much of that perception stemmed from the fact that the group planned to come out with a report on the federal government's security priorities. Given that some senior policy-makers were going to be involved, that report had the trappings of policy recommendations. Therefore, when Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and the CIO Council pulled away, the end was in sight.

The question now, however, is whether there can ever be such a group. We believe that the idea is sound and that a more workable framework can be created. After all, even critics of the CISO Exchange acknowledge that it served a purpose as an opportunity for public- and private-sector CISOs to exchange ideas and information.

There are other options. Perhaps the most logical is having the Industry Advisory Council oversee such a group given that IAC's primary role is to foster dialogue between government and industry. Many options exist, but inaction is not one of them. Despite the failings of the organization O'Keeffe established, he clearly recognized a need that must be met.

An aside: In his defense of the CISO Exchange, O'Keeffe suggested that Federal Computer Week lacked the objectivity to cover this issue because the publication's parent company, FCW Media Group, organizes a wide variety of events, as do our competitors.

We offered O'Keeffe the opportunity to state his case in a column. He refused, saying FCW was not objective in this matter.

FCW takes the sometimes quaint notion of objectivity seriously. That's why the editorial and business operations are separated.

True objectivity is almost impossible, especially as companies grow and expand. The best way for us to deal with conflicts — perceived or otherwise — is to lay them out for readers and let them make their own judgments.

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