One of the finest security, intelligence and defense reporters in Washington is Bill Gertz of the Washington Times.

Last week, his own website,, was one of the Internet’s “movers and shakers,” according to, the ratings service provided by an subsidary.

Gertz is always breaking big stories. His latest is that Osama bin Laden’s son is in Iran. He reports Tehran is on its highest alert as U.S. troops prepare to invade neighboring Iraq. Gertz provides hotlinks from GertzFile to his stories in the Washington Times.

While GertzFile normally ranks at 149,333 among all websites in the world, according to Alexa, last week it shot up to 13,758.

The week before, when this column was on hiatus, the biggest “mover and shaker” on Alexa’s list – the website that moved up the fastest – was NASA, not surprisingly.

That was the week that was for the U.S. space agency – one in which it experienced perhaps its worst tragedy ever with the sudden and mysterious explosion of the space shuttle Columbia.

A large number of BlackBerry users experienced service outages last week amid an interruption on the company’s largest U.S. network.

Many of those who own Research In Motion’s signature devices found themselves unable to send or receive e-mail messages for several hours.

Civil-liberties groups are urging Congress to cut off future funding for a Federal Bureau of Investigation program that allegedly would expand its wiretapping authority to include communications sent over Net backbones or wireless devices.

In a letter to federal lawmakers last week, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility also called for Congress to investigate the FBI’s plans.

The concern surrounds the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1994 and allocated millions of dollars to help U.S. phone companies upgrade their networks and develop new technical standards to accommodate court-ordered wiretapping techniques by law-enforcement officials. During a criminal investigation, the government can seek authority to intercept online and voice communications and track the origination points of conversations.

The FBI has warned American hackers not to launch cyber attacks against Washington’s foes.

An alert by the FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center warned that “patriotic hacking” was a crime and could even backfire.

The Center said it issued the warning “to heighten the awareness of an increase in global hacking activities as a result of the increasing tensions between the United States and Iraq.”

In the past, political protests by hackers have erupted into a virtual war of words. Most commonly these hackers have defaced websites, leaving messages in support of causes like the Palestinian intifada and Osama bin Laden.

With little fanfare, the White House last week released the much-debated National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, which calls on industry to show unprecedented cooperation with government agencies in the name of network security.

The plan depends heavily on network operators and industry groups sharing with the government information on network attacks, security threats and widespread vulnerabilities. While similar efforts in the past have failed, some industry insiders say there is reason to believe that this time may be different. Meanwhile, President Bush in his introduction of the plan, called the effort “a framework for protecting this infrastructure that is essential to our economy, security and way of life.”

“The cornerstone of America’s cyberspace security strategy is and will remain a public-private partnership. The federal government invites the creation of, and participation in, public-private partnerships to implement this strategy,” Bush wrote. “Only by acting together can we build a more secure future in cyberspace.”

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