At a news conference on Tuesday, December 15, 1998, the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) announced their study on Cybercrime,
Cyberterrorism and Cyberwarfare. Their message, simply stated, is that the
threat of a “cyberspace attack” from terrorist sources is real and possibly
The CSIS report states that “information warfare specialists at the Pentagon
estimate that a properly prepared and well-coordinated attack by fewer than 30 computer virtuosos strategically located around the world, with a budget of less than $10 million, could bring the United States to its knees.” In their
foreword they quote President Clinton’s commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy where he warned that: “Our security is challenged increasingly by nontraditional threats from adversaries, both old and new, not only hostile regimes, but also international criminals and terrorists who cannot defeat us in traditional theaters of battle.”
It is evident that the Clinton administration will use the threat of terrorism as a political football. When President Clinton got caught with his pants down, he played the terrorism card and invoked the threat of Osama bin Laden, the transnational terrorist, giving Clinton a reason to invoke a “Wag the Dog” scenario and bomb innocent people in far-off countries.
Despite his expansive use of the “civil liberties” theme in politically
correct venues, Clinton remains only too willing to trade away American freedoms for more power centralized in Washington, D.C. This administration
has spun every possible hint of a terrorist threat into an overarching need to
curtail American rights. Only recently has the media been reporting on some of the outrageous conduct of our government bureaucrats.
As a result of a decade of passenger screening at airports, Americans have
become conditioned to the notion that searching everyone in public places
makes us all safer. From airport searches to U. S. Customs Service searching
is a small step to most people. But it is hardly a small step for those persons
entering the country who fit “the profile.” The U.S. Customs Service is being
sued by two black women, Jacqueline Jones and Gwendolyn Richards, who not only have had their belongings ransacked, but were subjected to complete loss of liberty by degrading searches of their body cavities. Ms. Richards was even taken to a hospital in handcuffs to be examined by a doctor. According to their attorney, none of the searches turned up anything illegal.
It is easy for most of us to become incensed when personal liberty is
threatened by police actions. But too many of us agree to let the government
curtail our liberties when it is framed as a method of stopping terrorism.
After all the threat from foreigners or strangers is much more believable than
any threat from a government whose stated purpose is to keep us all “safe.” As a result our lawmakers included a provision that would dramatically expand the FBI’s wiretapping authority in the Intelligence Authorization Conference Report passed in October during the waning hours of the 105th Congress. Neither the House nor the Senate had included this amendment in their original versions of the bill. The only lawmaker objecting was Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia.
After the bombings at the World Trade Center and the Murrah building in
Oklahoma City, President Clinton invoked the specter of terrorism to push for
the passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. This
law had already expanded the powers of the Department of Justice and the FBI. Yet it appears that was not enough. In August FBI produced a new wish list which would have given it unilateral law enforcement control over every
government agency under the general umbrella in case of a terrorism threat.
The expansion of wiretap authority was just one item on that FBI wish list.
As I watched the CSIS press conference and read the Cyberwarfare study, I
thought of the 1998 FBI legislative wish list and predict that it will reappear when Congress reconvenes next January. The CSIS report not only coins the term “strategic information warfare” (SIW), but it likens the level of
threat to that of terrorism or conventional warfare. Given that comparison the report recommends the issuance of an executive order rather than legislation as a response to threats of information warfare (IW) attacks — a scenario ripe for a complete usurpation of most civil liberties. Any threat of an attack against American computers could give the FBI and every other federal police and judicial agency powers the framers of the Constitution never envisioned.
Massive power failures, such as the recent one in San Francisco, could
trigger a form of federal martial law comparable to the disruption of civil
liberties invoked during the Los Angeles riots. It is highly possible that
severe disruptions triggered by Year 2000 problems could be the catalyst to a severe curtailment of personal liberties. After all, the Department of Justice
proposed that the attorney general be given exclusive jurisdiction to investigate domestic terrorism and commandeer the personnel of every other
Federal Agency without compensation to prevent, prepare for, respond to, or
investigate domestic terrorism.
The threat from terrorists striking at the heart of American information
technology may be real. While everyone can agree that this country should
maintain its leadership in the development and application of information
technology, the freedoms that this country has held dear for over two centuries must also be vigilantly defended. No American wants a repeat of
fellow citizens being held hostage by terrorists, but the Bill of Rights must
not be held hostage because of possible threats of terrorism.