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USIS Washington 
File

22 January 1999

CLINTON ANNOUNCES INITIATIVES TO PROTECT US FROM WMD TERRORISM

(Seeks to block biological, chemical, cyber attacks (680)
By Wendy S. Ross
USIA White House Correspondent

Washington -- President Clinton says the United States must have in
place programs that can protect the nation if "the enemies of peace"
attempt to disable its computer and critical infrastructure systems or
attack it with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass
destruction.

This effort is at the heart of the $10 billion for counter-terrorism
programs the President will request in his proposed Fiscal Year 2000
budget. Clinton announced the initiative in a January 22 speech at the
National Academy of Sciences.

It includes a doubling of funds for research and development programs
to defend against biological and chemical weapons and a 40 percent
increase in funding for programs to protect the nation's computer
systems and other critical infrastructure -- such as power-generation
and emergency services -- from terrorist attack.

"Because of the speed with which change is occurring in our society --
in computing technology, and particularly in the biological sciences
-- we have got to do everything we can to make sure that we close the
gap between offense and defense to nothing, if possible," Clinton
said. "That is the challenge here."

The President said that "if the United States is prepared to defend
itself against such emerging threats, we will show terrorists that
assaults on America will accomplish nothing but their own downfall."

Following the speech, the President's National Coordinator for
Security, Infrastructure, and Counterterrorism, Dick Clarke, Attorney
General Janet Reno, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna
Shalala briefed the White House Press Corps on the President's
proposals.

Clarke said the administration knows of no imminent attack being
planned on the United States using chemical or biological weapons, or
cyber attack techniques. But, he said, "we do want to raise
consciousness, in the American people, in the scientific community, in
the corporate community, and in the Congress, that such attacks are
growing increasingly likely."

He said "we need to be ahead of the power curve; we need to be
prepared to defend ourselves against those attacks, and in so doing,
perhaps to prevent them; at least to be able to mitigate their
effects."

Clarke said the President's announcement "puts our money where our
policy is." Congress, however, must first agree to the budget requests
and must appropriate the money to fund them.

The initiative includes such programs as establishing a corps of
computer experts who could respond quickly to electronic attacks,
developing new vaccines, stockpiling antibiotics and creating
emergency medical teams in major cities.

Clarke said Clinton was very concerned about the threat of
"information warfare", by which a hostile nation, a terrorist group or
a criminal cartel could systematically attack computer systems that
control the nation's electric power grids, the telephone networks,
banking and finance system and transportation hubs "and effectively
shut the nation off".

He compared such a strategy to the bombing campaigns of World War II,
in which opposing nations tried to blast each other's infrastructure
into oblivion. "What we're concerned about is in the future nations
will have that same capability to destroy each other's infrastructure,
not by bombs, but by cyber attack. Now, we can prevent that if we have
cyber defenses."

Reno noted that since last year a National Infrastructure Protection
Center has been in existence, with the mission "to detect, prevent and
respond to cyber attacks on our nation's critical infrastructure, and
to oversee investigations in this field. It is a true interagency,
public-private partnership," she said, and "what the President has
announced today builds on this effort."

Secretary of Health and Human Services Shalala, noted that "We're all
here talking about a kind of scenario that we hope that our citizens
never have to confront. But the point is to be prepared. And my job --
and this is the first time in American history in which the public
health system has been integrated directly into the national security
system -- is to be able to provide tracking and treatment for
victims."