Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 24, 2005

NYT’s Q&A with Steve Flynn of CFR

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on December 24, 2005

The New York Times has an interesting question and answer interview with Steve Flynn of the Council on Foreign relations posted on its site today.

His reaction to the NSA story:

There’s no question, in my view, that dealing with al-Qaeda and the ongoing terrorist threat requires a different level of and different kinds of authority than existed before 9/11. But as a core principle, if you’re going to raise the authority of the government to a new level, then you have to raise the bar on accountability. Unfortunately, what we seem to have today is a constant rising of government’s level of authority with a diminishing level of accountability. The result of that, in the long run, will be a backlash by the public and a loss of support for important measures, particularly as the time between terrorist incidents expands.

I think that’s exactly right.

And a good definition of resilience, and what it means to build it into critical infrastructures and key assets:

In my view we need to inventory the things in our society that are both critical and currently vulnerable and quickly work to make them more resilient. Resilience can take one of three forms. One way is to harden things such as putting Jersey barriers around important buildings to keep truck bombs from getting too close. Another is redundancy. For instance, the distribution system of our electric gird would be more resilient if we have an inventory of spare electrical transformers so if one is targeted, it can be replaced quickly and power can be readily restored. Have spares would make transformers a less attractive terrorist target. The third form is to make your response capabilities as good as possible. For instance, the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline really doesn’t lend itself to hardening or redunancy. But quick response to a repair an accidental or intentional breach in the pipeline could be an effective deterrent. An emphasis on one or more elements of resiliency would depend on both balancing the potential consequences of a successful terrorist attack and the costs associated with each of the resiliency options.

For more on the topic of resilience, I highly recommend MIT professor Yossi Sheffi’s new book entitled The Resilient Enterprise.

The Q&A also includes insightful comments on aviation security and cargo security. Read the whole interview.

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