By Paul Bedard
'Secretary of Tech' Is No Fan of E-mail
He may be in charge of the gizmos used to find illegal border crossers
and deadly chemicals in subways, but Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff likes to keep his personal tech simple. "I don't use
E-mail," he confides. "You just get deluged with a lot of garbage."
Chertoff describes his experience with electronic mail as "picking
through genuine work E-mails and invitations to baby showers." Worse:
"People sometimes will think you've gotten something that you actually
haven't gotten." Been there.
Chertoff insists he's not out of touch just because he isn't glued to
a BlackBerry. "I rely on people communicating with my staff," he says.
"At any moment, I can request an update, and I can always be reached."
His E-mail discipline has roots in last year's Hurricane Katrina, when
unfiltered messages about the levee breach flooded in after he'd left
for the night. "It is unhelpful to have 15 or 16 E-mails coming from
all different directions being thrown at you," he says. "When people
rely on E-mail chains, it can sometimes leave the decision maker
unable to sort out good information from information that's just plain
wrong." His new rule for aides: Verify the info before clicking
"forward." As for this hurricane season, he's doing better than E-mail
by personally traveling to the Gulf region to view rescue drills. "I'm
going down there," he says, "and kicking the tires myself."
Attend the Black Hat Briefings and
Training, Las Vegas July 29 - August 3
2,500+ international security experts from 40 nations,
10 tracks, no vendor pitches.