Berger, Woolsey weigh in on counteracting terrorism

Berger, Woolsey weigh in on counteracting terrorism

Agencies that share databases to combat terrorism should do so on a strict need-to-know basis, former CIA director R. James Woolsey said yesterday.

Investigative databases, networks and other IT tools must be designed so that only authorized users can get access. 'Otherwise, we are inviting into our databases and networks the kind of people who shipped anthrax to Sen. Daschle,' Woolsey said at a forum sponsored by webMethods Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

Former national security adviser Samuel R. 'Sandy' Berger said that if he were Tom Ridge, the new homeland security czar, 'the first dollar I would spend is on data integration.'

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, law enforcement officers and intelligence agencies need to share information in real time to catch terrorists, Berger said. He said he supports the new Homeland Security Office, though he believes it needs more budget authority. Some officials have proposed formally moving federal law enforcement agencies into Homeland Security, but 'reorganization takes forever,' Berger said.

So far, terrorists have been carrying out their attacks by finding 'the soft seam of the system' in airports and mailrooms, said Berger, who now chairs a Washington consulting firm. 'The cyberindustry by and large is still a soft seam,' he said, but some companies are doing better than others in preparing themselves.

Even if the United States succeeds in punishing terrorists who orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks, we will not return to a terror-free world, Berger said. Americans will have to adjust to 'a vigilant normalcy,' much as citizens of London, England, have coped with about 70 bombings over the past 30 years, he said.

As a possible security measure, Woolsey described a new technology that would continually change the IP addresses and port numbers of networked computers. He serves on the board of the startup company that developed the technology, Invicta Networks Inc. of Herndon, Va.

People clever enough to grind anthrax spore material to the right particle size for infection can find someone to get through firewalls, said Woolsey, who headed the CIA from 1993 to 1995 and now practices law in Washington.

Any national identification card program should have a sundown clause that ends some of its data-gathering features after a fixed time period, he said.

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