From the Top

In the hours following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Defense Department leaders made the media rounds to reassure the public that the military was ready to respond.

Less than 24 hours after the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released a more personal video message to the troops. What follows is a condensed excerpt of that transcript.

"I left my office here in the Pentagon and went to the site of the attack minutes after it occurred. The scene was appalling. Our grief is beyond description; our condolences go out to all of those who have lost a loved one.

"I have been in public life for a long time. And if there is one lesson I have learned from it, it is this: Believe in the American people. Believe in them to act worthy of their past—to act worthy of the future of peace and freedom they want for their children."

Quiet Courage

Kudos to the folks running DefenseLink, the Pentagon's primary public-access Web site. Although the site was not updated until several hours after the attacks, the American Forces Information Services—an arm of the public affairs office—resumed posting articles that night.

Susan Hansen, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the public affairs office was up and running around the clock. Although Hansen didn't mention it, it's worth noting that as the public affairs shops and other DOD personnel kept working, there were rumors of more attacks. In fact, as people throughout the Pen.tagon continued working into the night, the building was still burning and parts of the structure were not stable.

One article on DefenseLink also pointed out that thousands of people remained calm during the evacuation, and the effort went smoothly. Such self-control takes a quiet kind of courage.

Volunteers Respond

It is not yet known how much damage was done to the information technology infrastructure at the Pentagon, but Microsoft Corp. and other companies have volunteered their support services for free.

In a slew of e-mail messages going around the building, Patrick Arnold, director of technology at Microsoft Federal, wrote that, "We have an entire team of support professionals to come on-site to assist in rebuilding and restoring IT infrastructures. The personnel have expertise in our operating systems, messaging, database and development technologies."

In addition, Microsoft officials also promised to promote DOD's needs to the highest priority. The National Secu.rity Agency also offered security professionals from its Network Attack Center and highly qualified Unix folks "who would volunteer in a second."

Pentagon CIO Unharmed

The office of the Pentagon's chief information office came through relatively unscathed, according to one Pentagon source. CIO John Stenbit and his staff were far enough from the blast to escape injury.

NSA on Paper

NSA is one of the agencies responsible for preventing terrorist actions and interpreting data to identify potential suspects. The agency, which is looking for money to modernize its cryptographic technologies, still uses some paper-based tools, including those assigning call signs such as "Delta one niner" to military personnel using tactical radios.

"Even today, after all these years, we literally still make codes — paper codes that are used in an off-line way and allow communicants to exchange information securely," said Michael Jacobs, director of the NSA Information Assurance directorate. "These are obviously for rather unique needs where conventional electronic equipment—whether it is radio frequency or wire or fiber—just do not have inherent security, and so they would rely on paper codes." Intercept something? Send it to [email protected]


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