The VigilanceVoice
Tuesday... February 12, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 154

No Security At HomeLand Security
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb 12--There was no security at the HomeLand Security Conference I went to last night at New York City's Museum of Television & Radio.  I could have walked in with bombs strapped around me and blown up the heads of some of America's and the world's media moguls.
         It was ironic to me that all I needed to enter the small, compact auditorium and sit only three rows from the stage where the powerhouses of American news were collected, was a small piece of paper called a "ticket."   There were no metal detectors, no police or military to form a shield of Vigilance, and, certainly no concern for the welfare of the men and women who direct America's news to billions of viewers.
        Governor Tom Ridge, Director of the Office of Homeland Security, was the keynote attendee.   He was on a video link from Washington D.C. along with Victoria Clarke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.  
       However, sitting within spitting distance of my wife and I were an array of top military and news pundits, tribal leaders of America Press, men and women to whom millions upon millions look toward to publish and direct the news.
       General Barry McCaffrey, with a raft of military credentials including serving as a Joint Chiefs of Staff assistant to General Colin Powell, sat in the first seat of the horseshoe.  Andrew Heyward, president of CBS, sat next to him.  Next was John Miller, co-anchor of 20/20, and one of the few who had conducted a rare interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998.  Dressed in an extremely short skirt that looked like lingerie from Victoria Secret and flashing her legs almost every time she twitched was Jane Hanson, an Emmy Award winner and co-anchor for Today in New York on WNBC-4.   To her right was Paul Steiger, managing editor and vice president of the Wall Street Journal.   And finally, Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report and publisher of the New York Daily News.

Tom Ridge










          Unfortunately, the seminar was what I expected--the media stroking the media about what a great job they did covering the events of Nine Eleven.   I had hoped for some penetrating questions by the media or audience, probing what America's Homeland Security should be all about.   That would have been icing on the cake.  I just got the cake--day old at that.
       I listened as the panel told each other how they "served the public" (as though that were a new mission?) and how wonderful it was the media held a "Nine Eleven Psychotherapy" show for children to assuage their pain.  If I didn't know any better, I would have thought they all brought big hands to slap themselves on the back.  They lauded themselves as the "parents of healing."   I didn't hear them one mention the children's real parents, or how important it was that the mothers and fathers teach healing--it was all about them.
      A couple of people eked out some quality information that everyone already new.  General McCaffrey rebutted the media comments that "no one really knew what was going to happen."  He paraded a litany of intelligence and historic facts that led directly to the act of Terror on September 11.  I gave him a plus for at least admitting fault in the press's lack of Vigilance in digging deeper into the "footprints of Terrorism" that led to Nine Eleven, but our audience was muted.
     Mort Zuckerman was the most realistic.  He talked about selling papers.   He shared how the Daily News was a fireman's and policeman's paper, and how they had sold over a million copies per day directly after the attack, compared to three quarters of million. He also stated how his "newsstand paper" (there are no subscriptions) made a decision to provide press coverage for every fireman's and policeman's funeral.  
     When Zuckerman first started to speak an older woman a few seats from me screamed out, "Talk Louder...Talk Louder..." and cast some harsh reality on the symposium that was being telecast around the country.   She knew the panel was talking to television cameras, not people.

Tom Ridge

      I was let down Tom Ridge wasn't there in person; I had expected to see him live.   On the screen, he was over-painted with make-up.  His face shined a deep red allowing you to see where the makeup started and ended.   He was the least communicative. His aggressive shotgun, Victoria Clarke, interceded and answered the majority of comments.  Ridge, however, did make the comment that Vigilance was necessary.  He warned the news must be broader and deeper to keep complacency from settling in over the long-haul.   His commentary was drummed out by Clarke's "press secretary" bellow.  She constantly shifted the spotlight to more of "government's policy" than "individual commentary."  And she bragged about how the press was allowing the government to "feed" them information, praising them for not "digging" for it and maybe publishing something that might be "sensitive."    I twisted in my chair at the lack of response to her suggestion the "media muzzle" was an accepted part of modern journalism.
       Only a couple of questions were fielded.  They came via phone line.  The panelists of course didn't answer the questions as they usually don't.  Instead, they used them as a springboard to promote their agenda of back slapping.  I was ready to ask why the constant warnings of Russia's president went unheeded by both the press and government, but I couldn't get that zinger in.
       To pass time, my wife and I wrote notes back and forth during most of the seminar, commenting on the guy in front of my wife with the poorly dyed hair, or Jane's short skirt and the apparent wig-like look of her hair, and our desire to eat food since we were more interested in dinner than the faddic communion we were listening to.
       Finally, I heard Tom Ridge softly utter the word "Vigilance" two or three times in the hour and half promotion of the media's "wonderful coverage."   I didn't hear the keywords "fear," or "intimidation" or "complacency."   There were no crowbars shoved under Tom Ridge's chair to unearth his plans for the future plans such as a National ID card, or wire tapping, or military deployment.   Of course, the audience (people) was not allowed to ask any questions.
      At least, I thought, I got a chance to see the media without any clothes.  On television they look like Titans, but in real life they squirm in their seats, check their cell phones during others' comments, flash their legs, try and look interested, stumble a bit before they speak, roll their eyes as they try to read the teleprompters in their minds, and, generally, look like the guy or gal walking down the street--normal human beings who burp and fart like everyone else.    I liked that.  Just real people playing the unreal stage of importance.
        But the big deal of the seminar was no security.   As we walked out into the bitter cold of a New York Night with temperatures in the 20's, I realized we could have brought anything into the room since there had been no concern for the safety of the speakers.   Not that the panelists are any more important than any one else, but rather it seemed to me that if someone wanted to make a huge political point by capturing headlines, blowing up the media moguls would have been a sure way to secure sound bites for the next few months.
       That threat didn't seem to worry anyone.  Even at the end of the seminar three very innocuous young people stood in front of the stage to keep us--the people--from talking to the Kings and Queens of the news.   I could have breathed garlic breath on them and they would have toppled.
       I focus my writings on three themes--overcoming fear with courage, intimidation with conviction, and complacency with action.  These, I believe, are the foundations of Terrorism of any kind or shape--whether it is be physical or emotional.  The worst of this triad, of course, is complacency.
      I swam in it last night.   There was complacency in everyone's comments, complacency in the screened questions, and ultimate complacency for the security of the Homeland Security.
      I felt I was in the glass house.  Anyone there with a rock could have broken all the windows.   Complacency allowed the doors to fear and intimidation to open.  Fortunately, no Terrorist or Crazy entered.  While the event was boring to say the least--it was also frighteningly vulnerable.  It was exposed to anyone with a gripe, a resentment, or a desire for their 15 minutes of fame.
      I got the sense from Tom Ridge's comments that he was pleading for all Americans to take charge of Home Security because no one else really could.   He was right on.
      I personally liked him and Mort Zuckerman.  They seemed the two realists in the group.  
      In retrospect, had I really thought about the danger of being in an insecure room with a pod of media leaders who strike the headlines of the day against Terrorism, I would have got up and left, not out of boredom, but for exposing my wife to the potential threat of Terrorism. 

       Complacency seduced me, as it did the others--except for the lady who yelled: "Talk Louder!".  The seminar was a signpost of our lack of attention to details, a sobering reminder not to count on anyone to carve a path for you through the minefield of Terrorism.  Do it yourself!
        I was embarrassed at my own lack of Vigilance.   I was throwing rocks at the media when I should have known security, homeland security, is my job--everyone's job.  
       Security?    It didn't exist last night.
       I guess it's up to me to watch over my wife, my children, my grandchildren.  No one else seems to care enough to protect themselves, let alone my family--at least the majority of those present last night didn't seem to, and they represent the source of our "news."
       After last night I will take my own medicine--I'll be "ready for anything counting on nothing." I'll be alert to "expecting the unexpected."
       I'll be Semper Vigilantes--Always Vigilant!  I have to be!

Go To Diary--Feb.11--The 8,111 Miracle (s) Of Nine Eleven

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