Waging war on information warfare

When it comes to information technology issues, Sen. Joe Lieberman may be best known for his ongoing crusade against violence and sex in video and computer games marketed to children.

The Connecticut Democrat has made advocacy of decency one of the pillars of his political career, from co-sponsoring legislation in 1995 to require V-chips in television sets so parents can block objectionable programming, to his 1998 speech on the Senate floor expressing "deep disappointment and personal anger" about President Clinton's liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Each year since 1995, Lieberman and the National Institute on Media and the Family have issued a video and computer game report card and urged manufacturers and marketers to exercise greater restraint.

Lieberman's involvement with information technology has broadened in recent years. In 1999, as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lieberman urged his committee colleagues to pay more attention to the emerging threat of information warfare.

More recently, Lieberman's interest has turned toward e-government. In May 2000, Lieberman teamed with Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) to launch an online "experiment in interactive legislation."

Through a Web site, the E-Government Project (www.senate.gov/~gov_affairs/ egov/), Lieberman and Thompson asked the public to comment on more than 40 issues related to e-government.

The site received scores of comments on subjects ranging from whether the government needs an IT "czar," to what sort of standards and protocols are needed so information can be structured and presented to a mass audience. Comments sent to the Web site helped guide the drafting of the E-Government Act of 2001, according to Lieberman staffers.

During the past year, Lieberman has frequently touted e-government's benefits, citing Web sites that make it easy to register vehicles, apply for student loans and bid on government projects. Last summer and fall, when he was a candidate for vice president, Lieberman plugged the Internet as an easy way for supporters to make campaign contributions.

Overall, however, the senator rates e-government at the federal level as "inconsistent, and particularly slow when interagency or intergovernmental coordination is needed."

Lieberman is not a technologist by training. Born in Stamford, Conn., in 1942, he is a Yale University-trained lawyer. He was a state senator for 10 years beginning in 1971, and became Connecticut's attorney general in 1982. He was elected to the Senate in 1988.

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