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Project on Government Oversight




Private Interests Influence Homeland Security Agenda: POGO Criticizes Conflicts of Interest & Secrecy of Advisory Council

July 9, 2003 


A letter from POGO to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge criticizes the make-up and the secrecy of the recently established Homeland Security Advisory Council, saying "This council does not currently bring the balance necessary to ensure that security interests prevail over corporate interests." (Click here for the letter.)

The letter also criticizes the absence of experts who have raised concerns about inadequate homeland security.

Secretary Ridge announced the appointment of 18 members of this council on June 25, five days before the first meeting. After the meeting, the Secretary appointed a number of local officials and emergency responders as senior advisors.

"Members from these industries, whose facilities are vulnerable to terrorist attack, have been placed on this council and therefore have power over decisions that will directly effect their bottom lines, despite their lack of homeland security expertise," the letter states. "Without proper oversight," the letter reads, "the financial interests of the private sector will vie with the security interests of the American public."

The Council is exempt from provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act which ensures that there is adequate sunshine on and public participation in the federal government's advisory committees. As a result, the Council's meetings and activities can be shielded from public scrutiny.

POGO's 2002 investigation into security at nuclear power plants revealed that private financial interests wielded too much influence over the federal government's decision-making on security at the plants. POGO's report, Nuclear Power Plant Security: Voices From Inside the Fences, found that the American public was not being adequately protected against a potential terrorist attack on one of the nuclear plants. As a result of the report, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued orders in 2003 requiring improved training and working conditions for power plant security guards.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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