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Chertoff's 'no e-mail' pledge

Yes, I'm here digging through my Sunday NYT and there, in the magazine, is their Sunday interview, which is with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. In the interview, he says that he doesn't use e-mail. Really!

Here is an excerpt (registration required if you want to read the whole thing):

Have you ever eavesdropped on one of my telephone conversations?

Constantly. And we'll be checking your e-mail when you type it up this evening.

Actually, one consequence of all this domestic surveillance is that Americans now know that nothing they put in an e-mail is private.

Look at all the people who have gone to jail because they e-mailed something incriminating! Frank Quattrone got convicted based on e-mail, although he just got his conviction reversed.

So what are you saying? That e-mail is bad because it can't be shredded?

I don't use e-mail. One reason is when you write an e-mail, you have to be mindful of the fact that nothing ever disappears. It can be deleted, but it is still in the system somewhere.

But as the man who oversees this country's security in addition to 180,000 employees, and who has been accused of being tragically out of touch, shouldn't you make yourself available to your employees?

They can get me. They don't need to e-mail me. There's a thing called a telephone.

Um, WHAT? There are still people out there who don't use e-mail? And what is going on that is going to get him in so much trouble?

There was also this question:

Q: What do you, as director of Homeland Security, make of the popularity of the television drama "24" and its exalted view of counterterrorist agents?

I have seen almost all the episodes. I think I have operation-center envy. They have the most glamorous and well-polished operation center of any I have seen anywhere in the United States government. Reality doesn't always come in as attractive a package as the television set.

I've been an avid fan of the Fox television show 24 this season and it sure seems like the show could almost work as a DHS war games. I would also be fascinated to read somebody critique the show who can give us an idea of how much of the show could actually happen.

Meanwhile, this story is also on the front page of the NYT:

FEMA Calls, but Top Job Is Tough Sell [NYT, 4.2.2006]

Numerous disaster response experts were asked to consider being FEMA's director, but the response was "No thanks."

Perhaps the most distressing line in the piece -- at least for me -- is right near the top:

Unconvinced that the administration is serious about fixing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or that there is enough time actually to get it done before President Bush's second term ends, seven of these candidates for director or another top FEMA job said in interviews that they had pulled themselves out of the running.

I believe it is more the latter -- not enough time -- rather than the former.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Apr 02, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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