Committed to the First Amendment

AMBER saves lives

There are currently 43 AMBER Alert systems in operation—14 statewide, 4 regional and 25 local. There should be plans for many more so that the entire country is covered before the ink has dried on another editorial page.

The AMBER Alert, named after Amber Hagerman, the child abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996, is a partnership between law enforcement and broadcasters in which the Emergency Alert System is used to prompt radio and TV stations to broadcast descriptions of suspected kidnappers and their vehicles. The keys to the system are immediacy and urgency. The more time that passes, the less chance there is of recovery.

Southern California had only launched its program six days earlier when it proved instrumental in the recovery of two teenagers last week, almost certainly saving their lives (the sheriff was convinced the kidnapper was preparing to kill his victims and bury the bodies in the desert). Broadcasters and law enforcement officers can be proud and the rest of us grateful.

According to an account of the capture in the L.A. Times,
someone who had seen the alert provided the first sighting of the suspect's white Bronco. A couple of hours later, "a flagman working on a highway construction site was listening to the radio and heard the AMBER alert. Moments later, he looked up and saw the Bronco pass by, a California Highway Patrol official said. He scraped the license number into a nearby patch of dirt and called CHP dispatch." Another tip from an animal-control officer pinpointed the location and the kidnapper was caught and killed, his victims shaken but alive.

Anyone wishing information on starting an AMBER program should log on to www.missingkids.com (The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), click on the AMBER Alert logo, then on AMBER alert kit.

I pledge allegiance…

Our first take on the Securities and Exchange Commission's new CEO/CFO pledge of fiscal allegiance was that it was overkill in the public hoops-and-hurdles department. But on second thought, we grew fonder of the measure, particularly if it produces even an eyelash-width's more confidence in the companies that drive the financial markets.

Pledges started coming in to the SEC last week from 947 publicly traded companies, including some big media players, whose CEOs and CFOs must swear the numbers—10Ks, 10Qs and the like—are accurate, to the best of their knowledge, so help me Alan Greenspan.

That sworn statement means that when large companies collapse and take us poor 401(K) types with them, ignorance can provide no shield to those making the big bucks to run the show. That should go without saying, of course, but apparently it hasn't. So now, for our sakes, they've got to say it. For their sakes, they had better mean it.