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[ISN] Terror Czar: The War Is Digital
By John Gartner
11:50 a.m. Sep. 11, 2002 PDT
PHILADELPHIA -- Invading Iraq or silencing Syria won't put an end to
terrorism, but according to an influential retired U.S. Army general,
figuring out how to effectively disrupt the communications of
extremist factions could.
Speaking to an audience of security professionals on Wednesday, Barry
McCaffrey, a security expert who advises Congress, said that winning
against Saddam Hussein will be relatively easy. Protecting civil
rights while battling terror will be harder.
McCaffrey, a highly decorated combat veteran, told attendees at the
American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) annual conference that
the government's ability to protect the country is "only is good as
the technology that backs it up."
McCaffrey said the United States' technologically advanced military
could oust Hussein in three weeks, and a battle is inevitable. But
removing dictators only goes so far, McCaffrey said, because most
radicals aren't fighting for a country but an ideology.
Intercepting communications between the international pockets of
zealots is a more significant weapon in battling terror, he said.
However, the government's initial attempts at monitoring e-mail and
other electronic communications has only succeeded in "terrorizing law
enforcement," McCaffrey said.
The government's current snooping system -- known as Carnivore --
makes it too easy to "enable the reading of all e-mails with only a
warrant," McCaffrey said. This indiscriminate access makes it
difficult for local law enforcement to find useful evidence in a sea
Still, McCaffrey said the "electronic intercept of communications and
satellite surveillance systems are a huge lever in battling the
threat" of terrorism. He expects that "technology will be a big part
of controlling who comes into the U.S."
But the general cautioned against creating a police state in which
spying on citizens goes unchecked.
"We have to devise security methods that protect the Bill of Rights
and allow free movement of individuals."
McCaffrey said the new Office of Homeland Security should be
responsible for coordinating all government agencies' electronic
Kelly J. Kuchta, a cybersecurity expert who is chairman of ASIS'
information technology security council, said private security firms
have become more willing to work with law enforcement since Sept. 11,
2001. He said more companies are sharing information about
cyberattacks with the FBI as part of InfraGard, a cooperative program
between the public and private sectors.
While there has not been a significant terrorist attack on the U.S.
technology backbone so far, Kuchta said security professionals are on
the lookout. They worry that a virtual attack could coincide with
another real-world one.
At 8:46 a.m., McCaffrey paused during his speech for a moment of
silence to honor the victims of last year's terrorist attacks,
including the 35 security professionals who perished at the World
McCaffrey said the United States is in a "permanent state of threat,"
and needs to work as part of an international effort to fight the
poverty that contributes to radical belief systems.
"We need to give them something to live for, instead of a cause to die
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