Friday, August 21, 2009

Chertoff's Strategic Partnership with "PR Firm from Hell"

(Part of a BorderLines' seried on Border Security Industrial Complex)
Chertoff Group, founded by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, has formed a “strategic partnership” with the controversial public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller to carry out the crisis-management part of its homeland security business.
“No one knows crisis communications better than the team at Burson-Marsteller,” states the Chertoff Group, and the partnership will “combine our extensive crisis management expertise with their broad crisis communications skills.”
No doubt that Burson-Marsteller has extensive experience in what the industry calls “crisis communications” – or spinning a business, government, or product failure so as to minimize damage to a company's bottom line or a government’s global reputation. Burson-Marsteller, now headed by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s pollster and strategist Mark Penn, has been called “the PR firm from Hell” by MSNBC’s Rachel Madow, because of the firm’s long track record in representing companies involved in major disasters. Says Madow (March 5, 2009) ,“When Evil needs public relations, Evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed-dial.”
According to the Guardian in London, “The world’s biggest PR company was employed by the Nigerian government to discredit reports of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentinian junta after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians, and the Indonesian government after the massacres in East Timor. It also worked to improve the image of the late Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and the Saudi royal family.”
A recent corporate client of this “communications crisis” firm is AIG, the investment firm bailed out by the U.S. government with $163 billion of taxpayer revenues.
In the past Burson-Marsteller has provided communications remedies after the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, for Union Carbide after the Bhopal gas leak that killed up to 15,000 people in India, and for British Petroleum after the sinking of the Torrey Canyon oil tanker. More recently, it has represented with tobacco firms, European biotech industries that produce genetically modified food, and, according to Madow, for the Blackwater security services firm after reports of murders of civilians by its government-paid mercenaries in Iraq.
Chertoff Group is also going directly to the heart of the industry with its M&A (mergers & acquisitions) division. “For deals in the security industry,” the Chertoff Group says it “offers unparalleled subject matter expertise and contacts to give you the competitive advantage.”
“We have overseen billions of dollars of technology development and acquisition for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency, and the CIA. We have keen insight into which new technologies are likely to transform the landscape, and our experience allows us to predict which ones may be headed for obsolescence.”
The firm sees a bounty of opportunities for consolidation in the new but “highly fragmented” homeland security industry. It promises clients to “help leverage economies of scale” and to “monitor and manage target companies during periods of transition,” reminding security companies that “it pays to know what we know before you decide on a merger or acquisition.”

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