Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, photograph by Alex Wong, Getty
Mostly the usual questions elicit the expected answers. But the Secretary’s answers do tend to be more pointed and practical than those of her predecessors.
There is also a marked tendency for her to answer what is asked and nothing more. I notice alot of prosecutors and former prosecutors display a similar reticence. I would expect this of the defense, but most defense attorney’s I know will just keep talking and talking.
Not Secretary Napolitano. For example,
MS. ROMANO: Another report that came out of Congress recently said–concluded that the world is at greater risk for a biological weapon for mass destruction than it is for nuclear; do you agree with that?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I think you can’t prioritize in that way.
MS. ROMANO: Okay.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I think what you have to say is both are known risks and both are things that we need to defend against.
Unfortunately there was no further follow-up, not even another “Okay.” It sounds like the Secretary may be applying an interesting decision framework. I would welcome knowing about that framework… especially in an interview transcript buried on the website. If you can’t go into depth here, I don’t know where it is possible.
Another interesting fragment, this one got the headline writer’s attention:
MS. ROMANO: What keeps you up at night? When you are laying in bed, what are the things that worry you?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, as I said earlier, you can’t eliminate all risk, and so, try to think of ways that we can work even better, more efficiently–whatever–to reduce risk. It is something that–not just me but everybody in this Department is always thinking about.
I think another thing that concerns me is complacency, the fact that it has been eight years almost now since 9/11 and people just assume the government is going to take care of that. Well, the government can do many things, and we are, but again, safety, security–a shared responsibility.
So the story headline is Security is a Shared Responsibility, Napolitano Says. I agree, in general. But what does the Secretary mean in particular? Once again no follow-up.
There’s lots more on emergency preparedness, immigration, and H1N1, but I don’t think any regular reader of The Watch will find anything new. That’s a shame. I expect the Secretary would have welcomed the questions.
September 11 Update
Early this morning the Secretary released the following statement (in its entirety):
On the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, our nation pauses to remember a day of sorrow and tragedy, but also a day of heroism and unity. Eight years later, threats to the United States and our allies abroad are persistent and evolving. Homeland security remains a responsibility shared by every individual, community and business. Together, we must build a culture of resiliency and guard against complacency, so we are better prepared for terrorist attacks or disasters of any kind. The President has proclaimed September 11 as a day of remembrance, and also a day of service. By serving our communities and our country today and throughout the year, we commemorate our past while also preparing for our future.
The bold highlight is my own work. If I was of my father’s generation I might have been a Kremlinologist, if of my grandfather’s generation an Old Testament exegete, but to me the shift from the long-abiding (if never achieved) “culture of preparedness” to this “culture of resiliency” is worth special note and is very welcome.