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“In the event of a Y2K-induced breakdown of community services that
might call for martial law,” will the military be ready? asked Sen.
Robert Bennett, R-UT, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the
Year 2000 Technology Problem, of Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre.

His reply? “We’ve got fundamental issues to deal with that go beyond
just the Year 2000 contingency planning. And I think you’re right to
bring that up.”

Later, Bennett added ominously: “The world as a whole is almost
doomed to have major problems because other countries are way behind,
however badly prepared we are”
to handle the problem. “It is entirely possible that every organization
in America could get its own computers fixed … and still have major
problems. When people say to me, is the world going to come to an end, I
say I don’t know. I don’t know whether this will be a bump in the road
… or whether this will in fact trigger a major worldwide recession
with absolutely devastating economic consequences in some parts of the
world.”

What on Earth are these guys talking about? Martial law? Global
economic collapse? The end of the world?

The government is getting nervous. To Washington, the Y2K bug
threatens to be either the end of centralized control over the lives of
Americans or an opportunity to extend government’s power even further.

It is, no doubt, this kind of panicky and opportunistic thinking that
led President Clinton to issue Presidential Decision Directive 63 — one
of the most ominous and least understood orders to emanate from a White
House notorious for issuing such directives. It was released by the
White House, like so many others, with little fanfare May 22.

Single-spaced, “The Clinton Administration’s Policy on Critical
Infrastructure Protection,” prints out to some 15 pages. While it never
explicitly mentions the Y2K bug, one can’t help thinking it was in the
mind of the authors, who dwell heavily on the importance of “cyber-based
information systems.”

“Critical infrastructures are those physical and cyber-based systems
essential to the minimum operations of the economy and government,” the
white paper says. “They include, but are not limited to,
telecommunications, energy, banking and finance, transportation, water
systems and emergency services, both governmental and private. Many of
the nation’s critical infrastructures have historically been physically
and logically separate systems that had little interdependence. As a
result of advances in information technology and the necessity of
improved efficiency, however, these infrastructures have become
increasingly automated and interlinked. These same advances have created
new vulnerabilities to equipment failures, human error, weather and
other natural causes, and physical and cyber attacks. Addressing these
vulnerabilities will necessarily require flexible, evolutionary
approaches that span both the public and private sectors, and protect
both domestic and international security.”

So what does the White House have in mind?

Clinton is calling for a plan to ensure “essential national security
missions” as well as general public health and safety by the year 2000.
Interesting that he would pick that date. The plan must also provide
ways for state and local governments to maintain order and deliver
minimum essential services and the private sector to keep the economy
humming.

Not interested in the federal plans? You may have to be. The document
states that “it is preferred that participation by owners and operators
in a national infrastructure protection system be voluntary.” Note that
word “preferred.”

The president’s national security adviser will serve as the
clearinghouse for developing the plans. The first drafts from federal
agencies is due on his desk this November. The military plays a big role
in the plans. The Defense Department serves as the “executive agent”
through the end of this fiscal year, after which, Clinton’s favorite
department, Commerce, takes over.

The directive also creates the “National Infrastructure Protection
Center, which includes the FBI, the Secret Service, other federal law
enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense and the intelligence
agencies. All federal agencies are ordered to cooperate fully with NIPC.
Private businesses involved in critical infrastructure will be “strongly
encouraged” to share information with NIPC.

Depending on the nature of the threat, “NIPC may be placed in a
direct support role to either DOD (Department of Defense) or the
Intelligence Community,” the document states.

Some of the immediate tasks for the national coordinator of this plan
include studying “existing legal impediments to information sharing,
with an eye to proposals to remove these impediments. …” and “the
necessity of information classification” — read: “secret files.”

Martial law anyone? Sounds like Sen. Bennett is on to something.

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