- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Business, consumers and security

While reading Dennis Bailey’s Sunday Commentary column, “Rethinking personal data woes,” I found myself saying, “Thank goodness for another thoughtful business ally out there.”

I concur completely with his premise that privacy is not about what information is used but how it is used — a view Equifax has endorsed for more than a decade. The free flow of information is critical. It enables consumers to get goods and services in a timely, convenient manner; it enables businesses to make reliable risk decisions; and it fosters economic growth.

I also share Mr. Bailey’s view about the consequences of Congress rushing to pass what may or may not be well-meaning legislation.

Mr. Bailey mentions the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as an example. I would add the enormous regulatory costs imposed on all businesses by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on financial and accounting disclosure and the huge costs to the credit industry to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act.

Certainly, consumer frustration and fear regarding identity theft and breaches of security are understandable, but the solution is not to dam the information flow with reactive legislation.

Rather, balance and education are the keys. Constantly seeking to balance the legitimate information needs of business and consumer concerns about privacy and security is the “more enlightened approach.”

Better privacy and security performance by business is essential — as is educating consumers and other stakeholders about the value of information and how to better protect against its fraudulent use.

To that end, we in business must become “weapons of mass instruction.” As more of us do, we stand a chance of achieving the needed balance.


Chairman and chief executive officer

Equifax Inc.


The Senate asbestos bill

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who wrote “Wrong approach on asbestos” (Commentary, Sunday), is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts, in commenting on my proposed asbestos legislation. Regrettably, Mr. Armey is wrong on the facts:

• The bill is capped at $140 billion, which has been agreed to by the business community: manufacturers and the insurance industry.

• Current law permits unimpaired individuals who have been exposed to asbestos to collect. My bill requires proof that the individual’s sickness is directly related to asbestos exposure.

• There is no potential future taxpayer liability. The trust fund is privately funded.

• Former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle did not co-author my bill.

Mr. Armey is correct that I am seeking support from Democrats. Unlike in the House of Representatives, where Mr. Armey served, it takes more than a bare majority (60 votes) to move a bill through the Senate on cloture.

Any fair reading of this bill demonstrates that it is a vast improvement over the present system, which has driven 74 companies into bankruptcy and left thousands of asbestos victims without compensation.



Senate Judiciary Committee


Commonsense ‘spying’ returns

Your front-page article “U.S. targets spy services abroad” (Sunday), had one inaccuracy. The strategy of “attacking foreign spy services and spy components of terrorist groups before they can strike” is not new. We were doing this very effectively during the Cold War and before.

As commander of a military intelligence group and as the chief of Army counterintelligence in the 1970s, I participated in frequent meetings with all my major intelligence agency counterparts at the FBI, CIA and others to compare notes and coordinate our actions against foreign and domestic enemies, including domestic terrorists.

Liberal members of Congress, particularly members fo the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, headed by Sen. Frank Church, objected to these coordination meetings as well as to the various intelligence agencies working in concert.

In the early 1970s, the Church committee forbade the intelligence agencies from talking to one another and exchanging information. This congressional dictum directly caused the problems (including the undetected September 11 attacks) our intelligence agencies now are trying to overcome.

Finally, decisions are being made that protect our citizens and country from terrorism and aggression. Being militarily strong in Iraq, for example, rid us of one terrorist-sponsoring nation and put us on the borders of two others, Iran and Syria. These nations fully understand that any support of terrorist activities would be at their peril because of our close proximity. The fact that we haven’t been attacked again on our soil and that terrorist attacks in Europe are rare proves this point and the wisdom of our Iraqi strategy.

I’m delighted that our president and his administration are bringing common sense back into our intelligence efforts. Thank you, Mr. President, from those who remember the frustrations and dangers to this country caused by certain members of Congress and others with an anti-American agenda who have actively worked since the 1960s to cripple our intelligence-gathering defenses.


Army (retired)


U.S. -Turkey relations

The column “Cold Turkey” (Commentary, Tuesday) by Arnaud de Borchgrave brings to the forefront a problem U.S. policy-makers have chosen to disregard, namely Turkey’s virulent anti-Americanism.

As the column points out, a recent BBC survey found Turkey to be first among 21 countries with the most negative attitudes toward U.S. policy. This column shows Turkey’s fervently negative response to the United States, its ally, and how it goes so far as to “outvenom bin Laden.”

What also is outrageous is that U.S. policy rewards this behavior with “favors” to Turkey, including backing its accession to the European Union.

Mr. de Borchgrave brings up important points, including Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus; its invasion and continuing occupation of the northern third of the island; its rejection of U.S. troops to open a second front against Iraq; and a paranoia on Turkey’s part regarding the United States allowing the Kurds to secede from Turkey and create an independent state despite President Bush’s repeated U.S. assurances to the contrary.

Turkey’s behavior has been detrimental to U.S. interests. Mr. de Borchgrave’s column is a point of awakening on the part of U.S. media toward Turkey’s behavior, which rarely gets questioned. I hope this column also will stimulate the administration to reassess its policy toward Turkey.



American Hellenic Institute


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