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Home » Hacking News » White House plans wide monitoring of Net

White House plans wide monitoring of Net

by Nikola Strahija on December 24th, 2002 The White House is proposing an Internet-wide monitoring center to detect and defend against major cyber-attacks, but the Bush administration sought to ease worries it might scrutinize individual users' e-mails along with other data traffic.

Some Internet industry executives and lawyers said they would raise serious civil liberties concerns if the U.S. government, not an industry consortium, operated such a powerful monitoring center. Such a proposal would require congressional approval.

Under federal wiretap laws, privately operated centers can in some circumstances analyze e-mails and other data flowing across parts of the Internet without approvals from a judge.

Disputing concerns about eavesdropping
President George W. Bush's top cyberspace adviser, Richard Clarke, on Friday strongly disputed concerns about government broadly eavesdropping on citizen e-mails. Clarke wrote there was "nothing ... which in any way suggests or proposes a government system that could extend to monitoring individuals' e-mails."

Clarke sent the letter to Harris Miller, the head of a prominent trade group, the Washington-based Information Technology Association of America. He said the White House plan "articulates a strong policy of protecting citizens' privacy in cyberspace."

The industry's fears appeared to stem from a subtle change between an earlier proposal and one currently circulated within the administration as part of its forthcoming "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," set for release early next year.

The latest draft, parts of which were obtained by The Associated Press, envisions a monitoring center to "analyze and exchange data about attacks that could prevent exploits from escalating and causing damage or disruption of vital systems."

It said the center "could be operated by the private sector but could share information with the federal government through the Department of Homeland Security."

'Managed by a private board'
The administration's earlier proposal, released in September as a draft for public comment, acknowledged explicitly that such a monitoring center "would not be a government entity and would be managed by a private board."

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that the administration still envisions that any such monitoring operation would be run by the private sector.

"The latest proposal seems to make this more aggressive, put the government in charge of it," said Stewart Baker, a Washington lawyer who represents the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association.

"It's not envisioned as an all-purpose intercept tool, but as soon as you put the capability in the government's hands to run a network operations center, you're putting in their hands the ability to get to who's talking to whom, what information is going from one company to another, one computer to another," Baker said.

Grappling with details
A spokesman for the new Department of Homeland Security, Brian Roehrkasse, said Friday there was no proposal that would call for monitoring e-mails and other data traffic of Internet users.

Roehrkasse said he could not describe specific proposals that have not been publicly announced, such as whether the monitoring center should be operated by industry or government.

"These are the exact questions we're grappling with," he said.

Many experts have questioned the need for such a centralized monitoring center, even one operated by private industry. They note that private centers on the nation's largest networks already adequately share information about Internet attacks informally among themselves and with the government.

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