January 26, 2001, 11:19 AM — WITH THE CLOCK winding down on its tenure, the Clinton administration is launching a new plan to coordinate the federal government's counterintelligence efforts -- a move aimed partly at improving the response of agencies such as the FBI and the CIA to information security attacks against companies.
The White House announced Friday that President Clinton has signed an executive order creating a counterintelligence executive position as well as a board that will handle interagency coordination on that topic. "We've moved into a world in which threats are more diverse and diffuse, and we need a counterintelligence capacity that recognizes the realities of the changing world," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert at a press briefing.
The intent is to increase the ability of the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Defense to "work together in a way that's more coordinated and looks at new threats, assesses them, and decides how to protect our secrets," Siewert said. He added that it will be up to the incoming Bush administration to pick someone to run the effort, which has been in the planning stages for the past 18 months.
Neil C. Livingstone, an intelligence and security analyst at Washington-based consulting firm GlobalOptions, said better counterintelligence and information security coordination is needed at the federal level. "We have a very fragmented law enforcement and intelligence community, and it's got to work better together," he said.
But to succeed, Livingstone warned, the counterintelligence coordinator envisioned by the White House is going to have to overcome the traditional reluctance of intelligence agencies to share information. "You've got to change the culture to start cutting across lines," he said. "This is a beginning. That's all it is."
"In all these areas, trends have forced the government to try to figure out ways to improve interagency coordination," acknowledged a source inside the Clinton administration. In particular, government officials are said to be increasingly concerned about attempts to steal information or attacks against systems that are carried out by malicious hackers.
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