Protecting cyberspace figures prominently into the work of the new Office of Homeland Security.
Just one day after former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge started his cabinet-level tenure as the head of the new office, he announced that Richard Clarke, a longtime political operative for past presidents, will serve as Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace Security.
Calling the position "vitally important," Ridge said Tuesday that Clarke will be Bushs chief advisor on all matters relating to cyber-security, and that he will serve as chairman of a government-wide board that will coordinate the protection of critical infrastructure systems.
Information technology, Ridge said, "pervades everything from a shipment of goods, to communications, to emergency services, and the delivery of water and electricity to our homes. All of these aspects of our life depend on a complex network of critical infrastructure information systems."
Destroy the networks, he said, "and you shut down America as we know it and as we live it and as we experience it every day."
Ridge characterized the Clarkes mission as a technical challenge, due to hackers, and potentially a legal quagmire because the effort "raises cutting-edge questions of both privacy and civil liberties." In addition, its a political challenge because the government must act in concert with the private sector.
The office is scheduled to have a $10 million budget.
At the news conference, Clarke reached out to members of Congress and the private sector to help secure the Internet.
"America has built cyberspace, and America must now defend its cyberspace, but it can only do that in partnership with industry," he said. "Im glad to see representatives of industry here today. Well be working even more with them in the future, to secure our cyberspace from a range of possible threats, from hackers to criminals to terrorist groups, to foreign nations, which might use cyber-war against us in the future."
Beginning with the Clinton Administration, the federal government has worked increasingly closely with industry, which owns and operates most of the nations critical infrastructure, to find ways to buttress the networks strength, and plan to get critical networks repaired quickly should they become disabled.
The key to the effort revolves around information sharing between government and industry. The information technology industry, while welcoming government interest in infrastructure protection, has been leery of too tight an embrace. Officials for the industry fear that the government may leak information about their networks or other trade secrets.
Nevertheless, Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, welcomed the creation of the cyber-security office and the appointment of Clarke.
"Dick Clarke was one of the early voices in warning America and the world about the dangers of cyber-terrorism," he said. "He has established an excellent working relationship with the information technology industry, and we look forward to building on that relationship to harden the security of the global information infrastructure. In particular, I think he should work with Congress to secure additional funding to improve information security in government systems."
Clarke, appointed as the first national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism in 1998, served as deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence under President Ronald Reagan, and assistant secretary of state for political military affairs under President George Herbert Walker Bush.