Critical Intelligence, Communication and Response: Formatting Lessons of the Recent Terrorist Attacks to Future Threats

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Critical Intelligence, Communication and Response: Formatting Lessons of the Recent Terrorist Attacks to Future Threats

Spring 2006 Conference Description

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

April 2 to April 4, 2006

Conference Overview:

On the morning of July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers detonated explosives on London's subway and bus systems, killing fifty-two people and wounding hundreds.  In the confusion that followed, officials in London struggled to orchestrate an effective response to assist survivors and stem the negative emotional fallout.  The London Assembly's report on the bombings, released eleven months after the event, cited the lack of effective communication between the various parties involved - rescue workers, hospital staff, government officials, survivors, and others - as causing serious problems in the response to this tragedy.   

Experts from around the world convened at the University of Virginia for the Critical Incident Analysis Group's annual conference to discuss topics ranging from the 1995 Tokyo Sarin Attack to the 2005 London Bombings.  Terrorist attacks that had occurred within the last several decades were used during the discussions as a foundation for understanding the complicated global dimensions of terrorism and the type of international response needed to combat it.  The roles that the government, the public, and the media play in response to terrorism were considered in particular detail.  The conference highlighted the need for improved communication and coordination during and after a crisis situation on both a local and national level. 

Like many response systems, communication structures are often only tested in times of crisis; during these times, the various strengths and weaknesses of the systems vital to combating disaster, fear, and chaos come to light.  The participants of this conference hope that their discussions will be beneficial in identifying and addressing some of the problems with communication structures, providing suggestions and potential solutions for the future.    

Distinguished Guests:

John, Lord Alderdice - was born in Northern Ireland in 1955, and educated at The Queen’s University of Belfast, graduating in Medicine in 1978. He specialised in psychiatry and psychotherapy and was appointed Ireland's first Consultant Psychotherapist in 1988 Northern Ireland. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 1996 and sits on the Liberal Democrat benches. Since 2000 he has been the Deputy President of Liberal International, the world-wide federation of liberal political parties, and was recently elected to the presidency of that body.

Shigeharu Aoyama - is President of Japan's Independent Institute Co., Ltd.  He is an expert on energy security, crisis management, national security, international relations, and national strategy.  Mr. Aoyama is also a lecturer for Japan Defense Facilities Administrations Agency and a lecturer for Japan Defense Agency. 

Daniel Bartlett - serves as counselor to President George W. Bush.  He is responsible for President Bush's strategic communications planning, the formulation of his policy, and the implementation of the President's agenda.  Mr. Bartlett was former White House Communications Director. 

Steve Campbell - is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Terrorism & National Security unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Prior to his appointment as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Mr. Campbell served for six years as a Special Agent and Legal Advisor with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  He previously served as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Air Force. 

Hodding Carter - is a professor of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Prior to his appointment as professor, he spent nearly eight years as the president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation - a foundation concerned with community and civic development, the furtherance of press freedom, and the improvement of press performance at home and abroad. 

John Harris - is a staff writer for The Washington Post and is the author of the recent book, The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House. He covered the Clinton White House from 1995 to 2001 for the Post and earned the White House Correspondent's Association's Aldo Beckman Award and the Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.  He is also a panelist on PBS's Washington Week.

Lars Hedstrom - has been Deputy Director General of the Swedish Emergency Management Agency in Stockholm since July 2003.  He is also a lecturer and Senior Instructor at the Swedish Fire and Rescue Academy, National Police Academy, and National Defense Academy. 

Tom Kelly - was former Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman and press secretary.  He was also in charge of government communications in Northern Ireland during the movement toward the Good Friday Agreement and after its implementation.  Mr. Kelly has a background in broadcasting, in particular for BBC, and he has worked in a variety of roles including reporter, political editor, producer, and news editor.  

Richard Kerr - is currently an international consultant; he serves as the U.S. representative to the Independent Monitoring Commission and as the Chairman of the Security Committee for BAE.  Mr. Kerr was also a former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hon. Edwin Meese III - holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research and education institution.  He is also the Chairman of Heritage's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  Mr. Meese is a former Attorney General, Counselor to the President, and President's Chief Policy Advisor under President Ronald Reagan.  He is also a member of CIAG.

Ron Nessen - is currently Vice President of Communications for the Brookings Institution.  He served five tours as an NBC war correspondent in Vietnam and later served as NBC News White House correspondent during the Johnson administration. Mr. Nessen served as the White House Press Secretary under President Gerald Ford.   

Todd Purdum - has been the National Political Editor of Vanity Fair since January 2006.  He also worked as a correspondent for The New York Times in the Washington Bureau, covering a range of topics from politics and policy to culture. 

Eric Stern - is Associate Professor of Government at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, and is acting professor at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm. He is also the Director of the Center for Crisis Management Research.  Mr. Stern is a senior research fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs; and he is a member of the Scientific Council of the Swedish Emergency Management Agency, the Stockholm City Emergency Preparedness Group, and the National Catastrophe Medicine Committee.  

Jerald terHorst - was White House Press Secretary under President Gerald Ford.  After a month in this position, he resigned.  Prior to this, he served as a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press and also as a reporter, Washington Bureau Chief, and a columnist for The Detroit News. 

Junko Toda - is the Chief of Research at Japan's Independent Institute Co., Ltd., Research headquarters.  She also worked as a Research Assistant at Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc. 

Robert J. Ursano, M.D. - is a Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland.  He is also Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.  Dr. Ursano served as the Department of Defense Representative to the National Advisory Mental Health Council and was also the first Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster.

Margaret Warner - is one of three senior correspondents on Jim Lehrer's PBS's nightly news program - The NewsHour; she reports on and interviews the men and women who are shaping today's world.  She also serves as a back-up anchor to Mr. Lehrer.  In addition, Ms. Warner is one of four co-anchors of America Abroad, a new hour-long radio program devoted to foreign affairs aired on ninety public radio stations through Public Radio International. 

Simon Wessely - is a Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and is Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at King's and Maudsley Hospitals.  He has published over four hundred and fifty original papers on diverse subjects including epidemiology, posttraumatic stress, medicine and law, history of psychiatry, chronic pain, somatisation, Gulf War Illness, chemical and bioterrorism, and deliberate self-harm. 

Representative Insights:

"How do you create breathing room for public discussion and debate, for members of Congress to ask appropriate questions, for them to thoughtfully analyze questions, in the wake of a catastrophic event?  The only way I can see is to begin to prepare the public now.  I think what we saw in the Brits getting on the subway right after those attacks was an acceptance of risk.  It was a willingness to take on risk in order to preserve their way of life.  Part of the message we need to convey now is that one thing the public can do is accept risk, accept risk for a period of time, so that policymakers have an opportunity to be thoughtful about their response." ~Suzanne Spaulding~

"Public education is a much more complex issue than it seems, and public education is critical to sending knowledge that will have the right context when events happen.  That knowledge can be given before as well as after and will change the response capabilities of individuals and communities.  Communication is a population-level intervention." ~Robert J. Ursano, M.D.~

"It is very important to realize that prior events greatly influence people's mindsets and organizational readiness when a crisis occurs." ~Eric Stern~

"Well, I have two rather disparate points to make.  The first is that it seems to me before you can communicate, you need to know the facts, to know what your objectives are, and therefore, what your policy is.  You need to know how to delegate responsibility." ~Richard Kerr~

"I think it is important to look at issues from an all-hazards perspective.  Every situation is going to be unique based on the circumstances, the adversary, the modality of attack, and where the attack occurs.  But too often we're reacting to the threat du jour...The bottom line is that we need to get a little more proactive and look at the core issues irrespective of the modality or means or the crisis at hand.  We need to make decisions based on outcomes." ~Frank Cilluffo~

"'Resilience' is a good word.  This is a country that was founded on a frontier spirit. I think that's still lurking in the genes. And I think the government would be well served to try to develop a belief in resilience, a belief in self-sufficiency, because everybody will be in a different situation and there will be a long sequence of events.  You want people to be able to tolerate that and make good decisions." ~Anita Jones~