Sleuths in cyberspace

In his inaugural address last month President Clinton touted the phenomenal development of the Internet which he described as the "mystical province of physicists" only 10 years ago.

Indeed the Clinton administration through its National Performance Review and other projects has used the Internet to loosen the federal bureaucracy's stranglehold on government-generated information. But the Internet has not yet been widely tapped as a vehicle to disseminate declassified information.

In fact an examination of home pages of several U.S. intelligence agencies revealed that most contain only minimal information about the mission and employees of the agencies and none offered documents generated by intelligence gathering.

Obviously intelligence agencies avoid posting satellite photos and other information related to active investigations. But most of these agencies have massive amounts of data that is frequently decades old and that has become obsolete because of the end of the Cold War or the resolution of other conflicts.

Although the government may be reluctant to part with these treasures a careful search of myriad U.S. intelligence sites generated two sites that will intrigue even the most avid Walter Mitty fan. Point your browser to the National Reconnaissance Office to access some stunning satellite photos (www.nro.odci.gov/). NRO is charged with ensuring that the United States has the technology and spaceborne assets needed to acquire intelligence worldwide. So "super secret" is this Chantilly Va.-based agency that it began acknowledging its existence only a few years ago.

Click on the "Corona" icon to peek at the fruits of Corona the nation's first reconnaissance satellite system. Corona which operated from August 1960 until May 1972 collecting intelligence and mapping imagery provides a rare glimpse into the surveillance activities of the United States during the height of the Cold War. Within the Corona imagery library users can view 1966 satellite photos of selected heavy bombers and transport aircraft at Dolan Air Field in Russia.

Other satellite photos include a Chinese nuclear test site at Lop Nor showing "ground zero" four days after a nuclear test Soviet shipyards and a Soviet solid-rocket motor-production plant.

For a glimpse into the intriguing world of money laundering and other financial crimes point your browser to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) home page (www.ustreas.gov/treasury/bureaus/fincen). FinCen is one of the primary agencies that investigates money laundering. While the graphics are simple the page has an unusual artistic flair that immediately attracts the eye. Still this site is text-intensive and ripe with juicy tidbits from the financial underworld.

For the latest news on international money-laundering schemes the agency has uncovered click on the "Advisories" icon. A sampling of the most recent advisories includes details on third-party checks and bank drafts in Mexico and a report on money-laundering typologies. Click on the "Cyberpayments" icon to learn how the feds characterize security threats generated by the new electronic commerce era and how they plan to ward off the future exploitation of money transfers via the Internet.

The "Borderless World" category details FinCen's international work including details of Interpol's first major anti-money-laundering declaration and 40 recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force that provide countries with a blueprint for the establishment and deployment of anti-money-laundering laws.

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