Tenet warns of terrorists combining physical, telecommunications attacks

Former CIA Director George Tenet on Wednesday said greater government regulation of the Internet and telecommunications networks is needed in order to guard against terrorist attacks.

The U.S. intelligence community needs to consider how terrorists might attempt to couple an attack on telecommunication networks with a physical attack, Tenet said during a keynote speech at the E-Gov Institute's homeland security conference in Washington.

"Efforts at physical security will not be enough, because the thinking enemy that we confront is going to school on our network vulnerabilities as well, and I think the two are inextricably linked," he said. "The number of known potential adversaries conducting research on information attacks is increasing rapidly and includes intelligence services, military organizations and nonstate entities."

According to Tenet "a loose collection of regional [terrorist] networks" now "thrive independently" worldwide by using telecommunications and the Internet to communicate with and learn from each other at almost no cost.

Telecommunications technology for government and business should have built-in protections, Tenet said, such as intrusion detection and protection systems, antivirus software, authentication and identify management services, and encryption.

"I know that these actions would be controversial in this age where we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability," he added. "But, ultimately, the Wild West must give way to governance and control."

Many national media outlets were not allowed to attend Tenet's speech. The Associated Press reported that Tenet insisted that natoinal media be kept out, only allowing in reporters for trade publications that cover the government.

Tenet was also critical of the direction that intelligence reform is taking in Washington. "There's a big focus on structural change at the top. My perspective is, this is all about data," he said.

The U.S. government has "an enormous amount of knowledge" on terrorist activities that should be disseminated to state and local officials, Tenet continued. "We have to start treating them as equals with regard to data and teach them as much as we possibly can by pushing data to them at the lowest levels of classification. [We should] even begin a very serious process of learning how to write at the unclassified level so we can educate everybody about what we see going on in the world."

"I really believe data sharing and the movement of data is the most critical feature of reform. I think that's where this game gets won and lost," he said. "We're having discussions about power relationships between people in Washington. At the end of day, I don't think that's the right conversation."

Legislation to overhaul the U.S. intelligence community is currently stalled in Congress. A key component of that legislation is creating an intelligence director to oversee the nation's 15 intelligence agencies.

Tenet reiterated criticism he expressed to the 9/11 commission earlier this year that the person leading U.S. intelligence agencies should be affiliated with an agency. "If you're not getting your hands dirty every day in terms of risk, I don't think you can lead the men and women of American intelligence, or capably inform the president," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.