Early last month I wrote a blog titled How The Media Raises Your Anxiety Over Terrorist Attacks in which I traced the evolution of a story from a largely unsupported series of statements to a full-blown end-of-the-world type story. There is a story currently making the social media rounds that shows once again have different perspectives, bias, and additions can change even the most common sense and routine government action into a conspiracy.
In her recent article Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy, journalist Naomi Wolf claims proof of a coordinated effort by corporations and the government to repress dissent, citing a document obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund under the Freedom of Information Act. Ms. Wolf links this pre-event surveillance and planning to the violent response by many police departments to Occupy activities, even though the original PCJF article and the related document discusses surveillance and coordination meetings, not tactical plans. Ms. Wolf’s implication is that the violence was preplanned at the direction of corporate America rather the actions of individual officers or poor departmental planning.
However, my real issue is the implication that coordinated planning between government and the corporate sector is by its very nature suspect. This is completely contrary to what we in the emergency management community have been working towards for years. Effective response requires cooperation and integration of all available resources, whether private or public. We try to anticipate problems and to develop an appropriate plan of action.
According to the General Accounting Office, 85% of the critical infrastructure in the United States is in the hands of the private sector. Threats to this infrastructure, from whatever cause, can produce significant harm to both the economy and individual citizens and are therefore the legitimate concern of government. To discharge that responsibility, it is essential that the government work closely with the private sector. To gather information on potential threats, to meet and coordinate planned activities, and to work collaboratively during response is essential. To do otherwise would be gross negligence.
Like many Americans, I’m concerned by the overuse of government surveillance and the gradual erosion of privacy. These are legitimate concerns. However, we must recognize that there are times when surveillance is appropriate and necessary and when government and the private sector must work together for the benefit of all.
Watch for a more in-depth discussion on this topic in this month's newsletter, Emergency Management Solutions.