American Bar Association hosts Homeland Security Law Institute

The American Bar Association has been sponsoring the Homeland Security Law Institute for the past five years. John Pistole, TSA Administrator and former asst FBI Counterterrorism Director, will give the final keynote address of the conference.

After tenure as the first General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, Joe Whitley, now of Greenberg Trauig, was approached by the American Bar Association (ABA) about developing a conference for homeland security law practitioners. The first Institute was held in 2005 and has been an annual event for the past six years. Each year the Institute has grown in attendance. Last year there were over 350 attendees. Of the attendees, approximately 40% were government lawyers (i.e., Federal, State and Local), 30% were from private corporations and 30% were in private practice. Previous speakers at the Institute have included Secretary Tom Ridge, Secretary Michael Chertoff, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Governor Frank Keating, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Deputy Secretary David Martin, and other senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.

This year’s Institute will mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. The program will consist of a number of interesting and timely panels and breakout sessions that will focus on areas of concern, to include: Cybersecurity, Homeland Security Law Compliance, SAFETY Act issues, Transportation Security, Regulatory Developments, Immigration Issues, State & Local Government Preparedness and Responsibilities, Homeland Defense, Critical Infrastructure, International Issues spotlighting FCPA & Arms Export Control, Energy Security spotlighting on Utilities and the Smart Grid, Homeland Security Funding Opportunities, Law Enforcement for 2011, Natural Disasters, Communications regarding the Public Safety Spectrum, Financial Security, Private Sector and Security, Developments in Chemical and Hazardous Materials Security (CFATS) and the Role of Courts in Terrorism. Alejandro Mayorkas will be giving the opening keynote address with Admiral Thad Allen as the closing keynote speaker on the first day and Stewart Baker will be giving the opening keynote address on the second.

Whitley promises that this year will be the “best ever” and for additional information and to register online, please visit the website HERE.

Will Couric Stay At CBS?

Katie Couric at CURE Annual Chicago Benefit April 16, 2010

With her contract expiring at the end of May, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric has a big decision to make. But as David Bauder from the Associated Press reports, “her next choice is likely to be fraught with more risk, and may not truly be hers.”

Folks have been speculating for some time whether Couric would remain behind the anchor desk. But talk heated up last week when “60 Minutes” head Jeff Fager was named CBS News chairman with Bloomberg’s David Rhodes at his side. Deciding whether Couric remains after her current contract expires at the end of May will likely be their first point of business.

Couric, the first solo female anchor of a network evening newscast and veteran “Today” co-host does have options. Bauder writes: “Couric has discussed the syndicated talk show market with her good friend and former colleague, ex-NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker. A shorter-term extension with CBS to stay put, at least through the 2012 election, is possible, as is a move to cable where other big TV personalities have found homes, such as Oprah Winfrey, Conan O’Brien and Martha Stewart. Of course, the Web is yet another alternative for Couric in today’s marketplace.”

Bauder quotes WHC Insider‘s own Tammy Haddad:
“She’s got to find a place where her interview skills are used,” said Haddad, a veteran TV producer who worked with Couric in the 1990s. “She has that rare ability to make something happen every time she interviews somebody and every time she’s on-screen.”

Couric’s former “Today” partner, Bryant Gumbel, created his own niche with his well-respected “Real Sports” show on HBO, Haddad noted.

To read the full article go HERE.

GE Celebrates the Reagan Era

It was an 80s flashback at the Ronald Reagan Building, fully equipped with glow bracelets, Atari games, giant dangling Rubik’s cubes, and breakdancers busting moves to a cover band.  Not a bad way for Fred Ryan, President and CEO of Politico and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and GE Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt, to get a party started.  Add in Tom Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell and you have a Washington style party to celebrate the Centennial birthday of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

Jeff Immelt

Thanks to the new GE ads, we remember Reagan as a Hollywood heartthrob and popular host of General Electric Theater, which aired on CBS radio and television. GE honored their beloved star with a party and conversation on Wednesday. Jeff Immelt reminisced about starting with the company back in 1982 while Reagan was in office (Immelt’s father worked at GE, too).

NBC’s Tom Brokaw moderated the panel discussion and aside from interviewing the president several times, shared a birthday with him: February 6. Panelists included Politico’s Mike Allen, CNN Sam Feist, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Reagan White House Staffer Ed Meese, and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

Reagan was remembered as “The Great Communicator “ and Fleischer did not doubt the president could still wear the title in today’s media environment. “If Ronald Reagan had a Twitter account he would know what to say in 140 characters or less.”

Reagan only needed four words to go down in history. Ed Meese recalled how anotherspeechwriter, Peter Robertson, told the president that “tear down this wall” was too strong and the State Department would not be happy with the phrase. Reagan insisted, telling Mr. Gorbachev and the rest of the world to knock down the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, essentially the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

The Reagan Library has more information on centennial celebrations taking placethroughout the country.

Check out photos from the party and panel discussion below:

Gibbs Gets Presidential Send-off

“Obviously, Gibbs’ departure is not the biggest one today,” President Obama joked, referring to the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

So began the 250th press briefing of the Obama Administration and the last time Robert Gibbs stepped behind the podium as the White House Press Secretary.

Obama walked Gibbs into the briefing room after making an official statement to cameras about the situation in Egypt. The president recalled when Gibbs began working for him while he was running for the US Senate in Illinois. “I still didn’t have a lot of money, so all I could afford was Gibbs.”

He then shared a bit of trivia about his keynote address in Boston at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It was the speech that launched Obama into the national spotlight and set him on the fast track to the White House. But what most of us didn’t know was that they were having a problem deciding which tie Obama should wear. All eyes turned to Gibbs and the blue silk tie around his neck.

Gibbs relented and took off the tie. Obama quipped, [Gibbs was] willing to take one for the Gipper.”

“I have to tell you, that I know there’s a simmering resentment that he never got it back. So as a consequence I wanted here, today, to present on the record, on camera, finally returning Robert’s tie. If he chooses to break the glass, he can,” Obama said as he handed over a frame with the tie, photos and a handwritten note.

“Robert has not only been an extraordinary press secretary but he has been a great friend. You could not ask for somebody better in the foxhole with you.”

Gibbs shook hands and embraced the president who left the room so that he could begin the briefing. While taking his place at the podium, Gibbs joked: “I liked that tie.”

Before jumping into the news of the day, Gibbs took a moment to thank everyone he works with. “It is a tremendous honor and privilege to do this each and every day, to serve and to take part in days like today that are so momentous. I want to thank the president and all of his team for, again, the privilege to serve.”

Watch the briefing here:

The AtlanticWire has also put together some highlights from Gibbs “rocky tenure” and the Los Angeles Times spoke with Gibbs who reflected on tenure as press secretary.

New White House Video Star: Plouffe

In another sign of a new Obama era, notoriously camera shy David Plouffe, Senior Advisor to the President, is kicking off a new program the White House is calling a “direct line to senior staff.”

With Advise the Advisor, every week a member of senior staff will post a video seeking the opinions and feedback of the American people on different issues. Plouffe kicked off the program with a short video harkening back to the President’s “win the future” State of the Union message.

You can go now to and send your thoughts on American innovation. Be sure to check back in to see if your idea passed muster – they promise to read through as much of the feedback as possible and post a summary a few days after the video goes up.

Obama: Media Maestro

Dec. 7, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

It may have been Steelers vs. Packers out on the field last night but Bill O’Reilly tried his best to get President Obama to fumble during their pre-Super Bowl interview on Fox News.

As Susan Milligan points out in US News, the President deftly handled O’Reilly’s line of questioning and observes that Obama’s “behavior indicates he is unwilling to engage in petty political food fights.”

O’Reilly: “Does it disturb you that so many people hate you?”

Obama: “You know, the truth is that the people—and I’m sure previous presidents would say the same thing, whether it was Bush or Clinton or Reagan or anybody—the people who dislike you don’t know you.”

The objective of Milligan’s piece was to point out media irresponsibility. But the O’Reilly/Obama interview is also another example of what John Harris and Jim VandeHei explore today in POLITICO: how the President is “playing the press like a fiddle.”

He is doing it by exploiting some of the most long-standing traits among reporters who cover politics and government — their favoritism for politicians perceived as ideologically centrist and willing to profess devotion to Washington’s oft-honored, rarely practiced civic religion of bipartisanship.

Click here to read the entire article on POLITICO.

White House Press Complain About Access

The infamous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil may have spotted his shadow yesterday signifying an early spring but it remains to be seen how quickly relations thaw between the press corps and the White House.

People around the world have been watching the reports of tens of thousands of Egyptians flooding the streets of Cairo calling for a regime change. The White House response to the clash between anti-government protestors and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak has been guarded, making few statements on what is being called a major foreign policy crisis.

Left without substantive updates on the situation in Egypt and shut out from the President’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the White House Correspondents Association sent a letter to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs complaining that “for two straight days the full press pool is being shut out of events that have typically been open and provided opportunities try to ask the President a question.”

The letter, written by WHCA Executive Director Julia Whitson, was sent in advance of the President’s signing of the New START Treaty, the new nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia.

“We are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms the White House’s decision to close the President’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and his signing of the START Treaty today to the full press pool.

The START treaty was held up as one of the President’s most important foreign policy priorities for almost a year dating back to the trip to Prague last spring. We are concerned that now his signing of it is open to still photographers but closed to editorial, including print and wire reporters and television cameras.” Read the full letter at

In the end, the White House stuck by its decision and allowed only a small group of photographers into the Oval Office for the signing of the treaty.

As reported in The Hill, Gibbs said the decision to keep reporters out of the signing was based on fear they would shout questions to the President about Egypt, and continued to defend the decision by stating it was “part of the coverage plans that have been in place for a bit now.”

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, March 20th is the first day of spring…

Joseph Fichera to serve as Senior Advisor to The Williams Capital Group

The Williams Capital Group, L.P. (WCG), a leading boutique U.S. investment bank that provides debt and equity underwriting, corporate and public finance services, announced thatJoseph S. Fichera, Chief Executive Officer of Saber Partners, LLC, has agreed to serve as a Senior Advisor to the firm.  In this capacity, Mr. Fichera will advise WCG on various securities and capital markets related initiatives involving the Company’s corporate and municipal client service efforts including mergers and acquisitions.

“Joseph’s unique experience and knowledge of our industry will be of tremendous value to our firm,” said Christopher Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Williams Capital Group.  “We look forward to having the benefit of his insight on a range of issues relating to the firm and serving our clients’ evolving needs especially in the current market environment.”

In 2000, Mr. Fichera founded Saber Partners, LLC (, a financial advisory firm for corporate and public sector entities which specializes in the power industry and corporate and municipal finance issues, such as auction rate securities and securitized debt.  He will continue as Saber’s Chief Executive Officer and Senior Managing Director.

For the Full Press Release click here.

Barbara Walters producer to Piers Morgan

Katie Thomson with Nicholas Kristof at Goldman Sachs Reception in NYC, September 2010

Katie Thomson, one of ABC News‘ top producers is named Senior Broadcast Producer for “Piers Morgan Tonight.” Here is an excerpt from the CNN press release:

Thomson joins CNN from ABC News where she spent 15 years working primarily with legendary journalist Barbara Walters, delivering and producing award-winning interviews for 20/20 and The Barbara Walters Specials.  She has produced interviews with the last four presidents, celebrities, and top newsmakers of the day including Barbara Walters’ interview with Monica Lewinsky which was seen by more than 70 million viewers and was the highest-rated news event ever broadcast by a single network.

“I’m thrilled Katie Thomson is joining the Piers Morgan Tonight team. She brings unmatched experience and leadership in the booking and producing of big-name interviews and she will be instrumental in helping lead a talented team of bookers and producers,” said Jonathan Wald, executive producer of Piers Morgan Tonight.

To read the full press release go here.

Ron Reagan Interview on POLITICO

WHC Insider’s Tammy Haddad sat down with Ron Reagan to discuss his new memoir “MY FATHER AT 100.” The youngest son of President Ronald and Nancy Reagan wrote the book to commemorate what would have been his father’s 100th birthday on February 6, 2011.

Reagan candidly offers new insights on his parents’ relationship and the Reagan family dynamic; he also sets the record straight on what he actually wrote about his father and glimmers that he was not always “completely 100 percent” while in the White House.

Never one to shy away from political opinion, Reagan responds to comparisons between his father andPresident Obama. And as for those rumors about Joe Scarborough, Reagan’s former co-host on an MSNBC after-hours show, making a possible run for president or vice-president in 2012? Reagan says, “He’d be the only Republican candidate not on FOX.”

As for Keith Olbermann’s recent departure from MSNBC, Reagan said “Keith was a remarkable figure there. In many ways I think he made that network what it is today.”

You can read more and watch the two-part interview on POLITICO and for more information on the book go to