Former cybersecurity chief opposes new regulations

Richard Clarke says Bush administration just needs to implement the strategy he developed.

Richard Clarke, former White House cybersecurity chief, is the first to admit that more than a year after that office completed a national cybersecurity strategy, attacks via the Internet are still on the rise. But that is not the fault of the strategy, and does not mean that more government intervention is needed, he said.

In a recent interview with National Journal's Technology Daily, Clarke criticized the Bush administration for failing to implement the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace and for cutting funding for cybersecurity research.

"They've actually cut the overall amount of money for research in cybersecurity," he said. "They've not created the federal government as an example of how to do cybersecurity."

Clarke defended the strategy he oversaw, saying that it "absolutely" reflected his views, and indicating that no changes are needed in it. He took issue with press reports from the time of the strategy's release that suggested it had been "watered down" through consultation with industry and others.

"What we did was we had a very complex document that was the result of a lot of input from a lot of groups in and out of government," he said. "We had 70 or 80 ... recommendations. ... So we clustered them ... into five recommendations and simplified the document. It wasn't watered down."

He also contended with assertions that the earlier version had more "teeth," in terms of calling for federal regulations. He said a strong public-private partnership is critical to success against cyber attacks, and frowned upon new regulation.

"I don't mind regulation if it's already there in industry traditionally regulated [such as electric power, banking and healthcare], and I think if you're going to have regulation, it ought to be effective regulation."

Clarke also said, "The FBI is light years ahead of where it was three or four years ago, but where it was three or four years ago is in the Stone Age." But he said FBI and the Homeland Security Department are moving slowly to put in place a sophisticated network for federal, state and local law enforcement. "They are underfunded and there is a certain lack of creativity," he said.

Clarke, who was the White House counter-terrorism adviser before moving to cybersecurity, said, "Terrorists use the Internet just like anybody else." But he has "yet to see any evidence per se that terrorists have used the Internet to launch attacks and cyber attacks. But then we very seldom know who does launch cyber attacks."

Clarke left the administration shortly after the strategy's release early in 2003, and is now in the private sector in northern Virginia, consulting on cybersecurity for firms such as Symantec and RSA Security.

Asked about this year's presidential election, Clarke said he is "still waiting" for a technology policy statement from the campaign of Democratic candidate John Kerry and would not say which candidate he supports. "I think I'm going to not publicly endorse anyone. I certainly think we need a management change, let's put it that way."