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[] 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 
in cyber-security. 

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 
you left? 

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 
national reputation? 

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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