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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Company Ties Not Always Noted in Security Push - New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 18 — When the storm erupted several months ago over plans by a United Arab Emirates-based company to take over management of a half-dozen American port terminals, one voice resonated in Washington.

Stephen E. Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, repeatedly told lawmakers and reporters that domestic ports were so vulnerable that terrorists could easily sneak a radioactive device into something as innocuous as a shipment of sneakers. And he offered a solution: a cargo inspection system in Hong Kong that scans every container, instead of the fraction now checked in the United States.

"The top priority should be working with the overseas terminal operators and putting in place a system that is being piloted in Hong Kong," Mr. Flynn told a House panel in March. "We have to view every container as a Trojan horse."

Homeland Security Department officials and lawmakers had been aware of the innovative port security approach in Hong Kong, but they had been reluctant to embrace it, convinced that screening every container at a port would be impractical. Mr. Flynn's forceful advocacy has changed that view.

But as Democrats and Republicans rushed to act on his advice, one fact usually remained in the background: From 2003 until 2005, he was a paid consultant to the Science Applications International Corporation, or S.A.I.C., the San Diego company that manufactured the system and could make hundreds of millions of dollars if its port security solution is adopted worldwide.

In one Congressional appearance this year, Mr. Flynn had acknowledged some involvement in the Hong Kong project, saying, "I've been a leader of the side putting it together." Four publications this year also mentioned his ties to the company.

But in most of his public comments this year — in at least three television interviews, two other appearances before Congress, opinion pieces in The New York Times and Far Eastern Economic Review and in nearly two dozen newspaper or magazine articles — Mr. Flynn's connection to S.A.I.C. was not noted. Even Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who was briefed by Mr. Flynn during a tour of the Hong Kong port, said he did not initially know of Mr. Flynn's involvement with the company.

In a recent interview, Mr. Flynn said that in news interviews and Congressional testimony he had been an advocate for better screening at ports and never endorsed S.A.I.C.'s products specifically. He declined to disclose how much he was paid by the company, but said it represented less than 5 percent of his annual income.

"If S.A.I.C. sold millions or billions of dollars of equipment, I don't make anything," Mr. Flynn added, saying that he sometimes worked for the company as little as one day a month. "I am willing to champion it because I think it will make a qualitative difference in improving container security."
read the rest here...

Company Ties Not Always Noted in Security Push - New York Times


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