Gary Hart: Code Red is coming

By William Jackson
GCN Staff - Government Computer News


The war with Iraq has increased the risk of a terrorist attack on America, said former Sen. Gary Hart, who now is co-chairman of the Commission on National Security for the 21st Century.

“Don’t be surprised if in the coming hours or days we go to Code Red,” Hart said this morning in Washington. “It is almost inevitable.”

Hart was part of a panel of experts gathered by George Washington University and webMethods Inc. of Fairfax, Va., to discuss the role of technology in national security.

The commission predicted in 1999 that America would suffer a major terrorist attack, and Hart was predicting such an attack as late as early September 2001. He said the present administration wasted valuable time in setting up a homeland security agency, which the commission recommended in January 2001.

The Sept. 11 attacks “were not Pearl Harbor,” he said. “America was warned.” Despite the attention to terrorism since then, “the country is not today prepared for retaliatory terrorist attacks.”

The panelists included former Clinton administration national security adviser Sandy Berger; former CIA director James Woolsey; Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget’s associate director for IT and e-government; and former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, now chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Terrorism. All agreed that for technology to be effective in national security there must be integration between federal agencies, and between federal, state and local governments.

But several panelists warned of such integration becoming a threat to privacy and civil liberties. There is an inevitable conflict between liberty and security, Woolsey said, and in time of war, liberty generally loses. He added that although use of tools such as the data mining applications to be developed in the Total Information Awareness program will have to be closely watched, “We have to find ways to make use of generally available information.”

Gilmore said there has not been enough public debate about the costs of improved security.