- By Dan Verton
- Jul 03, 2000
Sticks and Stones
A few weeks ago, in a small room in the Russell Senate Office Building,
as security experts talked about the growing threat of cyberterrorism from
"rogue states," an Asian journalist asked Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
and the other panelists to "stop the name-calling."
His message seems to have gotten through. Last week, House Armed Services
Committee chairman Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.) reminded everybody present
at a hearing that the latest Washington terminology for countries such as
North Korea, Iran, Iraq and others is "states of concern."
What N/MCI Isn't
The latest twist in the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet propaganda yarn comes
from Capt. Bill Bry, Navy program manager at the Program Executive Office
for Information Technology. According to a briefing Bry gave at the Navy's
Fleet N6 Conference in San Diego, Calif., "N/MCI is an IT initiative and
procurement strategy...not an acquisition program." This is a potentially
life-altering distinction for the program.
So now the emphasis is on a "seat management"-like concept, according
to Bry, who likened the N/MCI "seat" to buying a car with standard and optional
features. I found the Navy's decision to include "all-season tires" as standard
issue and "side-impact airbags" as an option particularly wise given the
proclivity of the Navy's N/MCI "crash test dummies" to collide with Capitol
The Navy's transition team plans to train customer technical representatives
in how to conduct N/MCI seat ordering beginning July 24.
The U.K. Solution
The British apparently have taken a hard-line approach to critical infrastructure
protection in a legislative move that some say has a good chance of creating
the first "surveillance society." The Regulation of Investigatory Powers
Bill 2000, a.k.a. "RIP," would require computer users to hand over their
encryption keys on demand or risk fines and imprisonment, according to sources.
Likewise, all Internet service providers would be forced to install
a "little black box" to divert commercial and private e-mail and other
electronic traffic through government computers.
"Alone, this is not a huge problem," said Alan Simpson, founder of Communications
Links Inc. "But coupled with the 250,000 or so video surveillance cameras
allegedly being placed on every street corner in the United Kingdom, visual
computer profiling and subsequent search facility, this is real cause for
concern." However, the government is expected this week to water down some
of the bill's controversial ingredients.
Secret Service Goes "Postol'
Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security
policy studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently shot
off a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Podesta asking why three
Secret Service agents paid him an unannounced visit bearing a "classified"
letter from an unidentified administration official.
The visit came one month after Postol, an outspoken critic of the Pentagon's
national missile defense program (see cover story, Page 20), sent a letter
to President Clinton outlining how simple decoys can defeat the multibillion-dollar
system. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization later classified Postol's
letter, even though he had obtained his information from open sources.
"This concerns me [because] it creates the impression that important
national security matters are being treated as purely political by the White
House," Postol wrote. Now there's a stretch of the imagination.
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