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[infowar.de] Ex-Security Czar Richard Clarke Speaks Out
Ex-Security Czar Richard Clarke Speaks Out
By Dennis Fisher
May 26, 2003
During his 30 years in Washington, Richard Clarke evolved from a State
Department staffer into the nation's top counterterrorism official
and, at the time of his retirement in March, the special adviser to
the president for cybersecurity. Along the way, he developed a
reputation for knowing how to get things done and also became one of
the more polarizing figures in the inner circles of power inside the
Beltway. He worked directly for three presidents in a span of 11 years
at the White House and was the driving force behind the development of
the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. He's now working as a
consultant to ABC News and several security vendors. Senior Editor
Dennis Fisher sat down with Clarke recently in Boston to talk about
the state of security in the government and private sector and the
development of the new National Cybersecurity Center.
eWEEK: When you decided to leave the government, was that something
that you planned for a while or was there some proximate cause?
Clarke: No, that was something I had planned for 20 years. I had just
reached the 30-year mark. I had completed 30 years of government
eWEEK: The whole establishment of the Department of Homeland Security
and the way that was all set up, how much of a role did that play in
your decision to leave?
Clarke: What we had decided to do, I had been involved with the
president and others in helping to decide to create a department in
the beginning before the administration had even announced its support
for a department. We decided to take the cyber-security components of
five different organizations and put them together in the department.
Then, when we did the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, we
intentionally sort of made two-and-a-half of the five priorities
things that the new department would have to implement. So there was a
plan in place for almost a year to move a lot of this function to the
new department. It was one of the key things that the department would
eWEEK: What's your impression so far of how everything's going there
and how the consolidation is working?
Clarke: If you think about private sector mergers, where two or three
companies have to be put together, you understand that there is a
normal period of adjustment. The Department of Homeland Security is
trying to merge 22 organizations at the same time so it's that much
more difficult. They're obviously having some growing pains.
eWEEK: Do you expect that to continue?
Clarke: Yeah, if you look at past federal departments coming into
existence by merging federal organizations, you look at the Department
of Transportation, the Department of Energy, it frequently took four
to six years before the organizations thought of themselves as one
department. We hope obviously that it's going to go quicker, but the
historical record is it takes a little time.
eWEEK: One of the big complaints I always hear from private sector
folks is that they don't know where to go when they find a new
vulnerability or have some other problem. Will this help with that?
Clarke: Some people in the past called the National Infrastructure
Protection Center at the FBI, some people called the CERT or the
FedCIRC, the federal version. The idea of putting all of these
organizations together is to create a National Cybersecurity Center,
which I think they probably will announce early next month. That
center will be the obvious place to make the call.
eWEEK: That'll be for incident response, new vulnerabilities...
Clarke: Yeah, the center will probably be more than just event
response. It'll also be policy development, awareness, public
outreach. It should be that thing that we described where the five
cyber components come together in one room. The key to making the
center work is that the person chosen to head it be sufficiently
high-level. They can't be buried in that department. Because the
person who's going to head that center has to do the job that in
effect I did as the special adviser to the president. So they can't be
on the fourth level of the department, and that's something they're
still trying to work out.
eWEEK: Do you think that'll be someone internal at the department
Clarke: No, no. I imagine it will be some nationally recognized expert
eWEEK: That seems like something that would've been a nice fit for
you. Was that not something that interested you?
Clarke: Ah, no. I had done 30 years of government service, 11 of that
with the White House. No one had ever done 11 years continuous service
at the White House before. So I had done enough. It's kind of like a
sentence of hard labor.
eWEEK: Were you surprised to see Howard Schmidt leave so soon after
Clarke: No. I think Howard did the right thing. He certainly by
leaving sent a message to the administration and the Department of
Homeland Security that they needed to move quickly to create the
national center and they needed to have a person in charge of that
with some real power. So I think his departure caused a lot of
attention on the Hill, a lot of attention in the Congress that the
national center hadn't been created yet. And one of the reasons the
administration is going to announce the creation of the center soon is
because of that pressure that Howard's departure engendered.
eWEEK: How vital is it that they really get someone with a strong
Clarke: The center will never become what it should be in terms of the
national locus for policy unless there's a nationally recognized and
high-level person with high-level access in the administration.
Because otherwise people will just consider it another bureaucratic
organization. It's very key that they get the right person, very key
that person has access to the president, the homeland security
adviser, and homeland security secretary.
eWEEK: Looking at the process of putting out the national strategy, is
there anything that you think you'd do differently?
Clarke: Well, not much. I think people got involved all across the
country, both in the 10 town meetings that we held and in the about 15
groups that contributed by writing their own parallel strategies. The
electric group, the banking group, oil and gas?all of the verticals
created their own national strategies as part of that process. Often,
strategies are just the documents themselves. This was not just the
document, but also all of the awareness activity that was created by
the process. And that was our goal from the beginning, was to have an
unusual process that drew people in and raised awareness. I think it
was very successful. The unprecedented idea of then turning out a
draft and letting the entire world comment on it also stimulated a lot
of involvement and awareness. No one's ever done that before.
Typically Congress doesn't even have a shot at it. If you look at the
other national strategies for drug control or physical security,
national security, military, only the cyber strategy was done in a
participatory way with the public involved helping to write it.
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