Not relying solely on its industry contracts, the Chertoff Group is also benefiting from a trail of media interviews and media events that bring the firm’s principals to the attention of prospective clients.
The September release of Michael Chertoff’s new book, Homeland Security: Assessing First Five Years, will also likely help promote the Chertoff Group within the homeland security industry. In his book, Chertoff makes the case the Bush administration effectively secured the country because there haven’t been any terrorist attacks on the homeland since Sept. 11 – an assessment that the Chertoff Group regularly uses to sell itself. But in the new book Chertoff occasionally ventures far outside his area of expertise and into neoconservative ideological territory. He predicts, for example, that the anti-Israeli Lebanese opposition group Hezbollah could surpass Al-Qaeda as the most serious terrorist threat to the United States. Chertoff alleges Hezbollah is better equipped, better trained and better politically positioned than Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.
“Having operated for more than a quarter-century, (Hezbollah) has developed capabilities that Al-Qaeda can only dream of, including large quantities of missiles and highly sophisticated explosives,” writes Chertoff.
Alarmism about Hezbollah, whose principal grievance is with Israel, is a common denominator of neoconservative ideology. Although not closely identified with the neoconservatives, Chertoff is firmly rooted in right-wing thinking, particularly with respect to terrorism and the role of the judiciary. Chertoff is closely associated with the right-wing Federalist Society. Chertoff is also speaking publicly about the government’s cybersecurity programs and intelligence gathering systems. During an August 7 presentation at the Potomac Officers Club in Washington, Chertoff weighed in on the deployment of Einstein 3, the latest phase of a web-traffic monitoring system sponsored by DHS to detect and deter cyber attacks. The Obama administration has authorized the deployment of the latest phase of the program, which will screen government traffic on private networks and will be managed by the NSA. The first two phases of the Einstein monitoring program didn't measure up to government expectations. Nonetheless, the Obama administration is set to launch the latest version of the cybersecurity system -- amid widespread privacy concerns resulting in large part because of NSA’s unauthorized monitoring of private communications during the Bush administration. Explaining the third iteration of the system, Chertoff told the Washington Post:
“Intrusion detection is like a cop with a radar gun on a highway who catches you speeding or drunk and phones ahead to somebody at the other end … Einstein 3 is a cop who actually arrests you and pulls you off the road when he sees you driving drunk.”
Cybersecurity is perhaps the most lucrative source of homeland security business, which may explain the Chertoff Group's interest in the Einstein project. Among the reported private partners awarded contracts for the Einstein system (which was allocated $600 million in 2007-2008) are AT&T, which is the lead partner with NSA, L3 Communications, General Dynamics, Sprint, Qwest, MCI, and Verizon. The homeland security business not only involves protecting communications and information systems from intrusions and attacks, it also entails extracting intelligence from monitored electronic communications. The Chertoff Group will likely serve these two sides of the intelligence/security business.
On August 20 Michael Chertoff and Michael Hayden are set to lead a discussion panel at the National Press Club on the privatization of intelligence. Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, says that “private contractors are operating in the most sensitive areas of intelligence.” According to Shorrock, “With the post-Sept. 11 hikes in intelligence spending, spying for hire has become an industry worth nearly $50 billion a year.” With the Chertoff Group's close ties to the CIA and NSA, this huge intelligence outsourcing budget will likely form an important part of the firm's revenue stream.
The homeland security industry is emerging as the country's fastest growing government-industry complex. It’s an industry where Chertoff and an array of ex-Bush administration officials are playing leading roles.
While the full extent of the influence and power of the new homeland security complex has yet to be determined, it is worrisome to consider that the complex’s leading architects are former government officials responsible for the USA Patriot Act, the border wall boondoggle, massive unauthorized domestic surveillance, and disastrous intelligence scandals of the Bush years.