Ex-cyber czar wouldn’t trust government to filter the
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Richard Clarke, who was the United States' first special adviser
to the president for cyber-security during the Bush administration,
believes that cyber-war is a very real threat to the United
States. He fears, however that an aversion to government regulation
is standing in the way of protecting vital systems.
"Regulation is a dirty word," Clarke told MSNBC's
Rachel Maddow on Wednesday. "Industries resist. ... The
government cannot defend cyberspace under existing law."
Clarke feels that more surveillance of the internet is necessary,
but he also believe that telephone companies and internet service
providers, rather than the government, need to be the ones filtering
for code which indicates attack software. "I'm not going
to be the guy who says, 'Trust the government,'" he emphasized.
The United States currently has no national policy to defend
critical systems, even in the wake of a relatively limited North
Korean cyber-attack which targeted American financial institutions
"It goes back to ideology and it goes back to the dislike
in Washington to regulation," Clarke said of the current
lack of policy. "Regulation in Washington is a dirty word
-- but if we don't have some targeted regulation, we're not
going to be able to defend ourselves against North Korea or
Iran. If we do sanctions on Iran over their nuclear program
and they choose to retaliate by a cyber-attack and we're defenseless
-- the day after, people are going to wake up and say, 'Why
couldn't we defend ourselves?'"
Clarke, who has a new book out on the subject, also blames
government indifference for America's vulnerability. "We
better defend ourselves," he stated, "and we're not
doing that. Unfortunately, the Obama administration's attitude
is 'we'll defend the government -- the rest of you are on your
The US military has advanced cyber-warfare capacities, but
as Clarke pointed out, "It's trying to protect the Pentagon.
... It doesn't have the authority and it doesn't have the capability
to defend you and me, to defend the banking system, to defend
the power grid, trains, pipelines. No one's doing that."
Clarke believes that increased surveillance is the answer,
but he made it clear that he is not talking about spying on
people's private communications. "What you do is you look
for patterns of ones and zeros that are known to be attack software,"
he told Maddow. "And you're not reading people's emails.
But even then, I don't want the government doing it."
"It would be a terrible idea," Clarke continued,
"but one simple way to defend would be to have the government
filtering, watching what's going on on the internet. You know,
after the Bush administration warrantless wiretapping with NSA,
I don't think it's a very good idea. I'm not going to be the
guy who says, 'Trust the government.'"
Instead, Clarke sees the government's role as one "of
doing it by making the telephone companies, making the internet
service providers, filter what's going on on their networks."
Clarke concluded by brushing aside the possibility that small
terrorist organizations or lone wolves could effectively launch
massive cyber-attacks. "This is about nation-states,"
he insisted, "and that's, in fact, good news, because if
we get our act together, we can move from talking about cyber-war
to talking about cyber-peace.
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast
April 21, 2010.