Magazine article National Defense

Terrorist Threat Epidemic Prompts Pentagon Response

Magazine article National Defense

Terrorist Threat Epidemic Prompts Pentagon Response

Article excerpt

At the 1998 Academy Awards for Motion Pictures, everything-for the most part-went as planned. There was, however, one unusual award presenter-a giant grizzly bear. The audience was hardly protected from the onstage bear had it gone ballistic.

What the audience did not know was that a swat team was waiting in the wings with tranquilizer darts in case such a riot occurred.

This level of preparedness is what is needed in the case of threats to U.S. national security, said Michelle Van Cleave, staff director and chief counsel of the senate technology, terrorism and government information subcommittee. Like the former Soviet threat, "that bear was understood," she said.

U.S. government and industry organizations are facing a wide array of threats. Officials say these dangers come from the most unexpected origins. "We start with the basic problem of figuring out who the bears are today," said Van Cleave.

The days of stovepipes are disappearing as Pentagon officials work to make strategic adjustments in countering such perils as cyberterrorism, radical groups, individual psychopaths, and weapons of mass destruction. Officials agree that critical infrastructure protection begins with information sharing and trust between the public sector-government-and the private sector-industry.

The private sector's willingness to help has yet to be tested, said Van Cleave.

The New Bears

"Our vulnerabilities are serious and increasing," said Stevan D. Mitchell, Justice Department commissioner on the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, Arlington, Virginia.

Tragedies such as the 1995 Oklahoma City and 1993 World Trade Center bombings have opened the Pentagon's eyes to the threat of domestic terrorism.

As the Internet plays a more integral role in information sharing, assault on critical infrastructures becomes more of a concern to officials at organizations from banking to telecommunications to the military.

Infrastructure awareness first became an issue in 1995 when President Clinton tasked the attorney general to chair a cabinet committee to assess critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, said Mitchell at the NDIA 14th Annual Security Technology Symposium and Exhibition in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"Events like the World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Tokyo subway attack remind us that there are those out there with the intent to do harm to our people and to our way of life. They are out there; that is a given," said Mitchell. "We will not always be able to predict who they are, who they are going to attack, or how they are going to attack.

"We will not always understand or sympathize with their motives, and so our defenses must be predicated upon their capabilities. Upon the tools that are at their disposal to do harm, our thinking, our planning, and our efforts must be against those capabilities ...

"Information sharing is the first key step to the development of a warning capability for our nation ... Government must lead by example. If the government treats this problem as a serious one, the private sector will see that government is serious and respond accordingly."

Clinton's Plan

In May 1998, the White House issued The Clinton administration's policy on critical infrastructure protection-presidential decision directive (PDD) 63. In the white paper, the administration laid out its policy on critical infrastructure protection.

PDD 63 said, "No later than the year 2000, the United States shall have achieved an initial operating capability, and no later than five years from the day the president signed presidential decision directive 63, the United States shall have achieved and shall maintain the ability to protect our nation's critical infrastructures from intentional acts.

The white paper specifically said steps must be taken to ensure that the government will be able to perform essential national security missions and protect the health and safety of the public. …

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