Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was entering his final days
in office when the city was attacked by terrorists on September 11. The
experience changed him forever, and made him a national symbol of
someone who helped the city and the country stand up and respond to
what had happened.
Although he has been mentioned as a possible national political
candidate, he remains in the private sector for now, helping client
companies best prepare a defense against future attacks. His company,
Giuliani Partners, advises on everything from crisis management and
data security to promoting technologies that help detect and contain
the effects of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or
explosive devices [see BW Online, 8/5/04, "Security: What Companies
Need to Do"].
He recently spoke with BusinessWeek
Associate Editor Diane Brady about the latest talk of terrorist
threats. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: When the news came out on Aug. 1,
revealing five sites in Washington, New York, and Newark as possible
terrorist targets, how did you react?
A: I reacted as I have very often over the past two or three years,
with a sense that we're much safer now, because we're realistically
dealing with the world. We're finding out about things and publicizing
them. Although it's disconcerting to hear that al-Qaeda may have plans
to attack us, it's much better than where we used to be -- where we
weren't finding out about those plans and we weren't alerting everyone
to be more prepared. It may seem counterintuitive, but when I hear
things like this, it feels like our government is moving in the right
Q: So you believe it's comforting that we're onto their plans?
The most dangerous situation is where you're facing peril but you're
not aware of it. You're safer in knowing about the peril and dealing
with it, even if it makes people much more nervous.
Q: Does this latest warning change anything?
It shouldn't change anything. The plan for the September 11 attack went
back three or four years and maybe even longer. Just because this
information went back two years doesn't make it [irrelevant]. Given the
length of time they take to prepare an attack, and the discipline
they've shown in going about it, that would be within the period of
time to be concerned about.
Q: Do you think companies in New York City are prepared for a possible attack, in so far as you can be prepared?
Both with regard to the government and private companies, they're doing
a lot more than in other parts of the country. That's probably because
we were attacked, plus we're on every one of these lists of prime
targets. You have to have had your head in the sand not to be doing
anything about it, if you're responsible for large numbers of people.
The building I'm in has much more
security than prior to September 11, and our company keeps reviewing
our plans. We're probably typical of what's going on here. There are
always exceptions, but the percentage of companies doing more is higher
than in other parts of the country.
Q: What are some areas of security that companies ignore?
There's an attitude of either not wanting to face the realities or not
wanting to spend money on facing the realities. For people in companies
that have significant numbers of employees, to do the things needed to
bring their security [to the] state of the art 2004 requires a certain
amount of investment.
There are companies that have the
foresight to do it, and there are companies that still worry about the
bottom line. They keep betting that it's not going to happen. They see
it as a cost against the bottom line. Other companies take a different
view: No. 1, it protects our people; No. 2, it protects our business;
and No. 3, all the money we put in makes us more efficient.
The other thing that helped in New York
was facing the blackout last year. You realize you're facing dangers to
your business, not just from terrorism but from natural disasters,
blackouts, and things like that. The second thing that has much more
awareness is the need for business continuity. The best example of this
was the stock exchange before September 11. In my experience as mayor,
the New York Stock Exchange had one of the best security plans and one
of the best business-continuity plans of any organization in New York
City. And that's one of the reasons why the stock exchange, although
right at the epicenter of the attack, was able to get back in a few
days. They're a good model of what business should be doing now.
Q: Given the expense involved and the
fact that the targets named keep coming up in Manhattan, do you worry
this will become a less attractive place to do business?
A: In a way, New York has become even more attractive as a very
exciting place to do business. New York has become legendary in its
ability to deal with things and overcome them. New York may be one of
the prime targets, along with Washington, but it's also seen as one of
the best prepared places. If something happens, the damage will be
I remember, a couple of years ago, we had
this terrible situation with a serial attacker and murderer. One woman
who was attacked by this guy but survived said she felt safer in
Manhattan, because when she started fighting the attacker off, there
were a lot of people around to respond. That's sort of symbolic.
Yes, this is a prime target. But there's
a lot more awareness here, a lot more preparation. There's a police
department of 38,000 that are the best trained in the country, and
they're doing more than any place else to find about things in advance.
On one side, there's the sense you're a target. On the other, there's a
lot more being done.
Q: But we're not getting the lion's share of homeland security funds.
We should. I think that the recommendation of the September 11
Commission that funding should be reallocated based upon honest,
objective risk assessment is one of their most important
recommendations. It reminds me of the way I approached the problem of
crime and how to distribute police officers. You don't just distribute
police officers on a geographic basis. You distribute them based on
need. Where do you need them the most to reduce crime?
One of the major changes we made was to
have a ComStat system that evaluated crime statistically, and then we
followed that system in distributing our police officers. And it
brought about a 60% to 70% reduction in crime. The same thing is true
with terrorism. Terrorism resources should be distributed based on a
realistic assessment of where we need those resources.
Q: What are people coming to Giuliani Partners for right now?
They're asking for a lot of things but, relevant to what you're talking
about, they're asking us to do evaluations of their security -- to make
certain they're aware of the new dangers they are facing. Do their
security plans embrace all the things that need to be done? Do they
understand how to evacuate a building?
A lot of the answers in the past couple
of days have been on physical attacks -- the idea of bombings. What
about biological and chemical attacks? Are their air-conditioning
systems secure? Do they have a business continuity plan? And what are
they doing about IT security? We get a lot of requests about that.
Q: A number of people are heading out of
town during the Republican Convention and some have talked about
curbing nonessential travel. Is that a wise move?
A: I would encourage people to be here. I think it's going to be great.
But the reality is, the same thing happened in Boston. People there
described it as a ghost town except for the delegates. I remember, in
1992, when we had the Democratic Convention here in New York, people
expected tremendous traffic jams. But they found the city more empty
In part, the selection of the date of the
convention was done so that the city would be somewhat more empty than
usual to accommodate the delegates. That week happens to be one of the
times when Manhattan is the emptiest. That's peak vacation time. In the
last week of August, you can get around this city in a very different
way than usual. The population of Manhattan can change by a million and
a half people.
Q: The Statue of Liberty has just opened to visitors again. Is that an important symbolic gesture?
A: Absolutely. I think it should have opened a long time ago, but I'm glad it has opened now.
Q: As we come up on the third anniversary of 9/11, do you worry that we might become complacent again?
I don't see that as a current risk in New York. The attack is too fresh
in our memory. All of us knew too many people who were killed. For
those of us who lived through it, I don't see us ever becoming
complacent again. That's a little bit more of a risk in the rest of the
country. The further away you get from September 11, people start to
assume it could never happen again. Everything points in the direction
that it will happen again.
Q: Since leaving the mayor's job, you've
made this your life -- thinking about how to handle dirty bombs, secure
information systems, prepare for disaster. Do you sometimes find it
tough to focus on these worst-case scenarios, after what you've lived
A: I actually find it helpful. Everybody's different. Part of the way
that I deal with having lived through all that is by not running away
from it. The more I can talk about it, the more I can get it out, the
better it is for me. In a way, by doing things like this, it makes me
feel like we're turning something bad into something good.
We had a terrible attack. Anything that
we can learn from it to prevent another one is positive. It also makes
me feel we're living up, to some extent, to the legacy of all those
people who died so bravely. I wouldn't want to think that they all died
-- particularly all those people who were saving other people -- and we
didn't learn anything.
Q: How do you think people should be acting at this point?
The first day of the attack, on September 11, I said to the people of
New York that I wanted them to become stronger as a result of this, so
[the terrorists] can't have a psychological victory over us. And New
Yorkers have exceeded my expectations. They are very strong. They are
At the same time, they are very
realistic. There's a great risk of a further terrorist attack on our
country. There's relatively little risk for any single individual.
Therefore, it should not affect your life. It's a new risk we're now
facing. I was in Israel last year, doing a program on the thing that
kills the largest number of Israelis. You know what that is? Reckless
New Yorkers face a much greater risk of
reckless driving. We don't stop driving. We don't stop walking. That's
how we have to deal with terrorism. It's a risk that we face. We have
to do a lot more about it. But, at the same time, it shouldn't inhibit
us from doing the things we have to do.
Q: It certainly hasn't affected real estate prices.
I love how, after September 11, so many people came to New York -- as a
sign to the terrorists that they can't inhibit us. That's what I hear
New Yorkers say: "Sure, I understand what's going on. But we're not
going to let these people stop us from living our lives."
Copyright © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. All rights reserved.
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