"The war on terrorism knows no boundaries and the private sector is on the front lines in this war." With these words, Frank Cilluffo, director of policy for the Office of Homeland Security, urged private security professionals to get involved and offer advice to lawmakers. "Washington must work with private industry to build partnerships," he said.
Cilluffo's remarks began a day-long security policy summit held at the Library of Congress in late September. Sponsored by ASIS International, panelists led discussions on the Homeland Security Act, privacy, and security officer standards.
Representatives of leading private security organizations were invited to attend the summit. Though Cilluffo could not stay for the meeting, attendees voiced concerns about the act's shortcomings. For example, several basic issues that could affect the success of the department--such as information protection, information sharing, and scenario testing--have been ignored.
With regard to information protection, attendees voiced concern about how the government would safeguard information that private companies might provide about security issues. Though the Homeland Security Act does offer some exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)--through which private citizens can request information from the government--these exemptions are narrowly defined and could be used only to protect information about the nation's critical infrastructure. "Most private companies would have difficulty providing information to the government right now, because they could not risk that information being made public through FOIA requests," said George Campbell, president of the International Security Management Association.
Another issue is the sharing of information in a crisis. According to Regis Becker, CPP, global director of security and compliance for PPG Industries, one of the main problems with the bill is that it creates a huge new bureaucracy. Such a structure could present problems, said Becker, because its very structure makes information sharing more difficult. For example, he noted, there is no system currently in place to disseminate very basic information during a crisis such as 9-11. …