CBS Consultant Defends NSA Anti-Terror Programs

Looks like another person on the CBS payroll missed a memo. First it was weatherman Dave Price giving positive reports on Iraq. Now, on this morning’s "Early Show" Colonel Randy Larsen, the director of the Homeland Security Institute and according to co-host Hannah Storm, a CBS News consultant, debunked a few myths that have been promoted by the media.

Larsen used the arrests in Canada to defend the National Security Agency’s (NSA) reported collection of phone records data and to illustrate its usefulness:

"But, it's a superb example, Hannah, of this controversy in the past few weeks about NSA and having the big database of telephone calls. When they arrested these people this weekend, they got cell phones and they got access to other phone numbers they didn't have before. And I'll tell you what, as a U.S. citizen, I'm really happy there's a database we can quickly look into now and see who they've been calling in the United States and start looking into that. So, there's a specific example of about how this data mining can really provide us more security here."

Yet, the company Colonel Larsen provides services for, CBS, has been highly critical of the NSA’s activities, referring to them as "the domestic spying scandal," (for examples click here, here and here) and questioning their practical purpose.

Larsen went on to defend the decision to cut homeland security funding in New York and Washington DC as reported "New York Times" on May 31 and repeated on the "Early Show" that same day. This has caused a stir by politicians, even Senator Joe Biden complained about it on yesterday’s "Early Show." Hannah Storm inquired about the controversy:

"Quickly want to touch on another controversy. The slashing of anti-terror funds in New York and Washington. How much does that hurt those two cities in terms of readiness?"

But Colonel Larsen quickly debunked her short-sighted assertion:

"You know, it's a little bit of spin on there. You have to look at how much they've received since 9/11, and New York City received a huge amount last year. So it makes it look like a reduction this year. But, they still get, New York City has gotten 19% of the funds that have gone to domestic spending here since 9/11. 19% for one city. So I think, just looking at one year and one figure doesn't give you the full picture, Hannah."

Colonel Larsen’s defense of Homeland Security practices may stem from his belief that America very well may be hit by a terrorist attack before year end, and America has to be ready. However, he is confident that any attack will be no where near the magnitude of September 11th 2001, as depicted in the following exchange:

Hannah Storm: "Well, in Jim's (CBS Correspondent Jim Stewart) report, we just heard this really scary news that U.S. officials think that there will be another attack on our soil in this year, 2006. Do you agree with that assessment?"

Randy Larsen: "Absolutely. That was a superb report by Jim, but we need to keep it in perspective, Hannah. I can tell you for a fact in the next 12 months 5,000 Americans will die of food poisoning, ok. This new al Qaeda generation we're dealing with, like he said, they're self-financed, self-motivated. They get their training over the internet. They are not capable of a sophisticated attack like 9/11, but we should understand here in America, like they do now in Canada, that the chance of a small scale attack like we saw in Spain or in London back on July 7th on the subways, that's quite possible. But we should not be overreacting to it. It's going to happen, but it's going to be small scale."

Due to the fact that a small scale attack can happen anywhere, it is vital that all potential targets, not just New York or Washington DC, have the resources and ability to respond to an attack. It is also vital that the government have all tools at its disposal to track potential terrorists and prevent a future attack if possible. The media ought to keep this in mind when they report on government programs.