It's Preliminary Program Information, Not Breaking News
Your opinion, "What's Wrong With This Picture?" (WT, Aug. 28), contains some inaccuracies and misleading statements about our Aug. 22 announcement of the National Information Assurance Partnership.
The announcement was timed to coincide with an internal afternoon event at which the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Security Agency signed a letter of partnership. We did not view this as breaking news, but preliminary information about a program to be unveiled in October.
Your opinion piece thoroughly describes and supports the goals of the partnership - and appropriately points out that there are many questions to be answered as we gain more feedback from potential industry participants. That's why we made the early announcement.
Several of your statements about the mechanics of our announcement are wrong. You say that "government officials intimately familiar with the project could not be found" on the day of the release - but we received no phone call from your publication on that day, and your only e-mail message reached our office after 8 p.m. that night. The program managers were, in fact, available that day.
You note that the NIAP program manager was on leave when your reporter requested more information. You're right. However, you neglect to mention that your reporter was given a knowledgeable contact who spent considerable time answering questions on the day an interview was requested (Monday, Aug. 25).
Explicit details about the program will become available over the next weeks and months as this new partnership evolves. We look forward to answering your questions and continuing to provide accurate and timely information to Washington Technology.
Chief, Public and Business Affairs National Institute of Standards and Technology
Your opinion piece, "What's Wrong With This Picture?" inaccurately and unfairly conveyed certain information relating to the joint National Institute of Standards and Technology/National Security Agency announcement of the National Information Assurance Partnership.
Your piece appropriately describes the goals of the partnership and relates our desire for increased consumer confidence in evaluated information security products, as stated in our press release.
The fact is, we consider the establishment of the NIAP and the signing of the letter of partnership as the groundwork necessary to hold a public opening in October. As such, we believe it is appropriate to provide whatever information available about the NIAP as early as possible in order to spread the word to potential customers in industry. It is for this reason that our press release was issued at a time that would coincide with our internal event.
You state "government officials intimately familiar with the project could not be found." When our agency received your call on Monday, Aug. 25, requesting an interview, we did tell your reporter that the point of contact for this initiative was on leave that day. We also offered an alternative of submitting questions via facsimile and having us provide a timely written response. You chose not to mention this in your article.
In fact, to set the record straight, the questions were received by our PAO office on Monday, Aug. 25 (the day your reporter called us). We subsequently contacted your reporter with apologies for our inability to grant an interview and faxed the answers to his questions the next day (Aug. 26), well within the time frame to meet his story deadline.
At the time, although your reporter seemed disappointed at not being granted an interview, he did not feel compelled to let the PAO know he was dissatisfied with the arrangement; we discovered that for the first time in your opinion column.
We note your closing paragraphs refer to questions left unanswered. One in particular was answered in our faxed response to you; yet, your article implies the questions were awaiting a response.
The effort between NIST and NSA and the formation of the NIAP is an important event which will become even more newsworthy with the progression of time and the grand opening this fall. We look forward to your attendance at our joint conference and press briefing Oct. 7-10.
Judith A. Emmel
Chief, Public and Media Affairs
National Security Agency
Fort George Meade, Md.
Editor's Note: The editorial stated, "the news release arrived by e-mail late on a Friday afternoon and government officials intimately familiar with the project could not be found early this week." Also, as a matter of policy, Washington Technology does not consider the opinions of federal agencies when evaluating the news value of releases.
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