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[infowar.de] Bye, cyberczar Clarke - thanks for everything
Bye, cyberczar Clarke - thanks for everything
By George Smith
Security Focus Online
Opinion - The retirement of Richard Clarke is appropriate to the
reality of the war on terror. Years ago, Clarke bet his national
security career on the idea that electronic war was going to be real
war. He lost, because as al Qaeda and Iraq have shown, real action is
still of the blood and guts kind.
In happier times prior to 9/11, Clarke -- as Bill Clinton's
counter-terror point man in the National Security Council -- devoted
great effort to convincing national movers and shakers that
cyberattack was the coming thing. While ostensibly involved in
preparations for bioterrorism and trying to sound alarms about Osama
bin Laden, Clarke was most often seen in the news predicting ways in
which electronic attacks were going to change everything and rewrite
the calculus of conflict.
September 11 spoiled the fun, though, and electronic attack was shoved
onto the back-burner in favor of special operations men calling in
B-52 precision air strikes on Taliban losers. One-hundred
fifty-thousand U.S. soldiers on station outside Iraq make it perfectly
clear that cyberspace is only a trivial distraction.
Saddam will not be brought down by people stealing his e-mail or his
generals being spammed with exhortations to surrender.
Clarke's career in subsequent presidential administrations was a
barometer of the recession of the belief that cyberspace would be a
front effector in national security affairs. After being part of the
NSC, Clarke was dismissed to Special Advisor for Cyberspace Security
on October 9th in a ceremony led by National Security Advisor
Condoleeza Rice and new homeland security guru Tom Ridge. If it was an
advance, it was one to the rear -- a pure demotion.
Instead of combating terrorists, Clarke would be left to wrestle with
corporate America over computer security, a match he would lose by
pinfall. Ridding the world of bad guys and ensuring homeland safety
was a job for CIA wet affairsmen, the FBI, the heavy bomb wing out of
Whiteman Air Force Base -- anyone but marshals in cyberspace.
Information "Sharing" and Cruise Missiles
The Slammer virus gave Clarke one last mild hurrah with the media. But
nationally, Slammer was a minor inconvenience compared to relentless
cold weather in the east and the call up of the reserves.
But with his retirement, Clarke's career accomplishments should be
In 1986, as a State Department bureaucrat with pull, he came up with a
plan to battle terrorism and subvert Muammar Qaddafi by having SR-71s
produce sonic booms over Libya. This was to be accompanied by rafts
washing onto the sands of Tripoli, the aim of which was to create the
illusion of a coming attack. When this nonsense was revealed, it
created embarrassment for the Reagan administration and was buried.
In 1998, according to the New Republic, Clarke "played a key role in
the Clinton administration's misguided retaliation for the bombings of
the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which targeted bin Laden's
terrorist camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan."
The pharmaceutical factory was, apparently, just a pharmaceutical
factory, and we now know how impressed bin Laden was by cruise
missiles that miss.
Trying his hand in cyberspace, Clarke's most lasting contribution is
probably the new corporate exemption in the Freedom of Information
Act. Originally designed to immunize companies against the theoretical
malicious use of FOIA by competitors, journalists and other so-called
miscreants interested in ferreting out cyber-vulnerabilities, it was
suggested well before the war on terror as a measure that would
increase corporate cooperation with Uncle Sam. Clarke labored and
lobbied diligently from the NSC for this amendment to existing law,
law which he frequently referred to as an "impediment" to information
While the exemption would inexplicably not pass during the Clinton
administration, Clarke and other like-minded souls kept pushing for
it. Finally, the national nervous breakdown that resulted from the
collapse of the World Trade Center reframed the exemption as a grand
idea, and it was embraced by legislators, who even expanded it to give
a get-out-of-FOIA-free card to all of corporate America, not just
those involved with the cyber-infrastructure. It passed into law as
part of the legislation forming the Department of Homeland Security.
However, as with many allegedly bright ideas originally pushed by
Richard Clarke, it came with thorns no one had anticipated.
In a January 17 confirmation hearing for Clarke's boss, Tom Ridge,
Senator Carl Levin protested that the exemption's language needed to
be clarified. "We are denying the public unclassified information in
the current law which should not be denied to the public," he said as
reported in the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News.
"That means that you could get information that, for instance, a
company is leaking material into a river that you could not turn over
to the EPA," Levin continued. "If that company was the source of the
information, you could not even turn it over to another agency."
"It certainly wasn't the intent, I'm sure, of those who advocated the
Freedom of Information Act exemption to give wrongdoers protection or
to protect illegal activity," replied Ridge while adding he would work
to remedy the problem.
Thanks for everything, Mr. Clarke.
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