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 thethreat of a "cyberspace attack" from terrorist sources is real and possiblyimminent.
The CSIS report states that "information warfare specialists at the Pentagonestimate 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 theirforeword 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."
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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 politicallycorrect venues, Clinton remains only too willing to trade away American freedoms for more power centralized in Washington, D.C. This administrationhas spun every possible hint of a terrorist threat into an overarching need tocurtail 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 havebecome conditioned to the notion that searching everyone in public placesmakes us all safer. From airport searches to U. S. Customs Service searchingis a small step to most people. But it is hardly a small step for those personsentering the country who fit "the profile." The U.S. Customs Service is beingsued 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
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threatened by police actions. But too many of us agree to let the governmentcurtail our liberties when it is framed as a method of stopping terrorism.After all the threat from foreigners or strangers is much more believable thanany 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 inOklahoma City, President Clinton invoked the specter of terrorism to push forthe passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Thislaw 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 everygovernment 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, Ithought 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 ofthreat 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, couldtrigger a form of federal martial law comparable to the disruption of civilliberties invoked during the Los Angeles riots. It is highly possible thatsevere disruptions triggered by Year 2000 problems could be the catalyst to a severe curtailment of personal liberties. After all, the Department of Justiceproposed that the attorney general be given exclusive jurisdiction to investigate domestic terrorism and commandeer the personnel of every otherFederal Agency without compensation to prevent, prepare for, respond to, orinvestigate domestic terrorism.
The threat from terrorists striking at the heart of American informationtechnology may be real. While everyone can agree that this country shouldmaintain its leadership in the development and application of informationtechnology, the freedoms that this country has held dear for over two centuries must also be vigilantly defended. No American wants a repeat offellow citizens being held hostage by terrorists, but the Bill of Rights mustnot be held hostage because of possible threats of terrorism.