Cohen backs info sharing, police work in beating back terror threats

Cohen backs info sharing, police work in beating back terror threats

The United States may have the most powerful military in the world, but that will not stop terrorists from attacking the country.

'It's not the military that's going to win the war against terror,' said William Cohen, former secretary of Defense. 'The military will always be there in the last resort, but in my own opinion, we'll depend more on good police work, some Special Forces.'

Comparing the fight against terrorists to the Cold War, he quoted John F. Kennedy's description of a 'long twilight struggle.'

Cohen spoke to an audience of hundreds of business and government executives at the Executive Leadership Conference in Hershey, Pa., sponsored by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council.

'Our national security has three basic principles,' Cohen said. 'Deter, defend, then defeat ' . Deterrence doesn't work against terrorists.' Nor is defense a successful strategy, he warned. Most defensive efforts are aimed at protecting military personnel, bases and equipment rather than American citizens.

The need to share information, not only among government agencies at all levels in the United States, but also among global allies, is crucial to the struggle, he said. Breaking down the stovepipes that keep information from moving across agency lines is part of the challenge; finding ways to get information to flow up from field agents to key decision makers is another.

'You've got to have different levels of supervision to make sure there is some check, but each agency has to make sure that it has some mechanism so information can be reported from top to bottom,' Cohen said. 'There's no easy way trying to address that.'

Technology will play a key role in moving information in a timely fashion to those who can act on it, he said. But 'technology is racing far ahead of our public policy,' Cohen warned. 'What will you demand of government ' in order to be safe? How much privacy are you willing to give up?'

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