Who's afraid?

Getting caught crying wolf on issues of national security could have serious ramifications, says Jim Albertine, president of the American League of Lobbyists.

Albertine is referring to a case in October 2002 in which VeriSign Inc. coerced the Commerce Department into making a quick decision. VeriSign feared the two DNS root servers it maintains might come under attack by hackers. The company claimed that leaving the root server at its current location could compromise national security.

The result: VeriSign's request was moved along and approved two days later by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The company's actions highlight a growing tendency among organizations seeking funding or regulatory approval: Businesses are using current security hype to speed up slow government approval processes. It's a trend that has government watchdog groups on alert.

"It takes time to weigh the merits of a company's case," says Celia Wexler, senior policy analyst for Common Cause, a lobbying organization in Washington, D.C. "We don't want an agency rubber-stamping what a company wants to do unless it meets with the public's interest."

"In terms of internal security, there's new thinking since 9/11," says Albertine. He points to executive orders that have expedited procurement processes at the departments of Energy, Transportation and Defense as examples of the new attitude in Washington.

"We're not talking about leap-frogging the process; we're talking about expediting it," says Albertine.

Companies and their lobbyists must be truthful about their intentions when approaching the government. Either there's a wolf or there isn't.

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