By David Franke
© 1999

You may have noticed that many of the articles appearing on our Y2K page
are, shall we say, rather sobering in their analysis of what’s ahead with
the Year 2000 problem. And I’m not referring to commentary by right-wing
crazies like me, but rather to news articles reporting actions and comments
by diplomats, investors, business leaders, government agency heads, and NGO
chiefs, among others. There are a lot of serious people who are seriously
concerned about Y2K.

You may have also noticed that every utterance coming from the White House
and its Y2K czar, John Koskinen, is upbeat, reassuring, dismissive of any
worries about Y2K. Oh, foreigners are fair game — they will have problems.
But not us.

How can the White House concoct such a Panglossian view of Y2K — a stance so
breathtakingly one-sided in its portrayal of the most serious public issue
of our time? Simple. You just put a lid on any news that doesn’t fit the
slant. When you run across that kind of news, you cover it up.

Now, that’s a pretty serious accusation, and it sounds rather fringy. But
this past week we were delivered a “smoking gun” pointing to a rather
serious cover-up, by someone who admires John Koskinen. In other words, this
person doesn’t have an axe to grind against the White House.

In case you were vacationing in Uzbekistan this past week, Jim Lord is the
Y2K author and speaker who unveiled a website
last Thursday that is registered in Tonga, an island nation in the South
Pacific. On this website he presented his account of a “secret” Navy report
that “was obtained from a confidential source of the highest reliability and
integrity.” Since Lord is a retired Navy officer, most people have assumed
his source is in the Navy.

According to Lord, the Navy report’s “results are horrifying. They expect
more than 26 million American citizens in 125 cities to be without
electricity, water, gas, or sewer services next January.” Lord listed those
cities, classified by the Navy according to probable and likely risk.

Whatever the validity of this report, I expected nothing but derision and
stonewalling from the White House. Instead, within hours John Koskinen
acknowledged that the report did, indeed, exist.

Of course, the Panglossian spin also began immediately: The report Lord
quoted from was weeks old, based on old and incomplete data. That report has
been supplanted by newer updates that (surprise!) find that almost all those
utilities are now ready for Y2K, and the few laggards will be ready soon.

And the Navy quickly goose-stepped in line behind its commander in chief. A
follow-up story by the Associated Press Aug. 21 quoted Navy spokesmen as
saying, “I don’t think we have a problem with utilities … there are no
indications of likely widespread failures of water, electricity, gas or
sewers,” and, in case you still missed the point, the Navy’s assessment is
“right in sync” with the White House’s.

Now, I plan to address the validity of the Navy report quoted by Jim Lord,
but that has to wait for another article. Here I want to look at Lord’s
accusation that this was a “secret” report and “they’re holding this
information back” from the public.

The original AP story gave the White House response to that charge:

“Koskinen said the Navy wasn’t withholding information from anyone, noting
that the continually updated report was available until recently on a Web
site maintained by the Defense Department.

“The report was pulled off the Web site two weeks [ago?], Koskinen said.
Neither he nor Defense Department officials offered any reason why.”

Incidentally, that last paragraph did not appear in two later editions of
the AP story. Every other paragraph of the original AP story was repeated. A
suspicious, cynical mind might wonder whether the AP came under fire from
the White House for such a negative, provocative ending.

So, was this a “secret” report? Well, it certainly was when Jim Lord told us
about it on his website, because by then it had been pulled off the
Internet. If it had been on the Navy website earlier (I have only the
government’s word for that, at this point), that site was so obscure and
technical in nature that it’s hard to portray it as “public.”

For more light on what happened, let’s turn to one of the many commentaries
about this affair that appeared on the Internet this past week. This one
comes from Steve Davis, who, according to Sanger’s Review, “represents
Coalition 2000, an organization that fosters community Y2K planning and
preparedness.” I urge you to read
this commentary
in its entirety.

Here is what Davis says about Lord: “I have nothing against Jim Lord. I met
him a year ago in Boulder and found him to be a rather nice chap. I am also
a commentator and on that account we are on equal footing — but with clearly
different opinions and modes of operation.”

And here is what Davis says about Koskinen: “I have had far more interaction
and disagreement with John than with Jim. We have not always agreed
on things — I would have liked to see the government take a much more
proactive approach on preparedness. However, I have grown to trust John and
know him to be a credible and trustworthy source of information.”

Fair enough. Davis trusts John, and has nothing against Jim. Davis clearly
seems to be a rather nice chap who likes people, and is on no vendetta
against anyone. He also states openly that he wrote this commentary after
having “quickly contacted John Koskinen at the President’s Council.” With
that in mind, let’s cut to the really juicy part.

Davis is writing about the “secret” aspect of this report: “Seems Jim had
been given a copy of an official Navy report dated June 1999 and titled,
‘Master Utility List.’ While he claims to have gotten the report he says he
does not have the detailed information and he is launching a Freedom of
Information Act campaign to get it.”

Then Davis continues: “However, two weeks earlier on August 5th, someone
else got a hold of the report and instead of creating a public furor, they
went to John Koskinen with it. Seems that Mr. Koskinen was not aware of the
report before this contact but quickly checked into it and informed him that
the DoD (Department of Defense) was taking down the site and reviewing it
and others to be sure they were appropriate for public access.”

Stop the presses! This story obviously comes straight from John Koskinen,
the president’s Y2K czar, so think about what is being said here and what is
being implied here:

First, this report was so “public” that the president’s Y2K czar wasn
‘t aware of it. (I personally have no doubt that Koskinen was
terrified when told about this report — not because of the truly
alarming content, but because this was theoretically available to the

Second, a good citizen, it is implied, doesn’t go about “creating a
public furor,” but instead goes directly “to John Koskinen with it.”

Third, Koskinen “quickly checked into it” and told his informant
“that the DoD was taking down the site and reviewing it and others to
be sure they were appropriate for public access” (emphasis mine).

Folks, that is as open an admission of a cover-up as you’ll ever get from a
government official without physical torture!

Makes you wonder what was on those “other” sites, doesn’t it!

And, oh yes, fourth, that good citizen obviously kept the secret,
because we never heard a word about this until Jim Lord spilled the beans.

Remember, once again, that all of this is revealed to us by someone who has
access to John Koskinen and who has “grown to trust John.” Doesn’t sound to
me like Steve Davis is an agent of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

As for me, I cannot deliver a verdict on Jim Lord’s Navy report until I
actually see it. But I do know now who’s on the side of the American people,
and who isn’t. Jim Lord, thank you for bringing all of this out into the
open. It’s obvious that without your brave action this would still be
a secret buried in the government’s vaults, along with those other reports.

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