CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright 1997 // March 1997

Jacking in from the "Man Behind the Curtain" port:


Here... March This
by Lewis Koch
CWD Special Correspondent


Chicago -- You better not hack, better not phreak -- The President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection is coming to town.

This behind closed doors Commission holds the key to America's most precious civil liberty chastity belt: Privacy. And now it's going on tour. That right, the Commission is coming to a town near you, a dog-and-pony road trip whose tour jackets are read: MADE in the NSA.

The Commission's goal during the tour is to hear from the people, to collect ideas about how to protect the critical infrastructure from... from... why the newest threat (ominous music) to our national well being now that the Sovs are gone, Saddam's waiting for a bullet and the Chicoms are turning capitalists -- (scary music swells) - "cyber-terrorists" attacking our so-called "critical infrastructures" through devious computer hacking raids. Honest.

And yet, even as members of the Commission smile politely and nod their graying heads, they are busy trying to figure out (read: Justify) just how to rewrite U.S. laws which would lift, or at least modify, the decades old ban that keeps our nation's top spooks from the National Security Agency from gathering intelligence on you and me.

Which is not to say these kats don't have an ironic sense of humor. One of their first public debuts will be in San Francisco during next week's Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference. Of course, if you can make it to CFP, you might try the Los Angeles, California, Public Works Hearing Room, City Hall, room 350, third floor, starting at 10 a.m. and if you can't grok with the freaks in L.A. or the cypherpunks in San Francisco, perhaps you can make it to Commission's other scheduled stops in Atlanta, Houston, St. Louis or Boston. (Call now, operators are standing by, 202-828-8869, ask for Liz.)

Between all his strenuous fund raising efforts, President Clinton last July found the time to form a this Commission to inquire into the question of whether this nation has protected its precious physical and cyber innards, namely electric power, gas and oil, telecommunications, banking and finance, transportation, water supply, emergency services, and of course, continuity of government services, and...the Internet.

By this time the Government has caught on to the fact that the Internet is no longer a fun toy for academics and young people but rather but serious business for people who bustle around or sleep over at the White House. There is money to be made on the Net, power to be wielded.

There are also some big bucks to be spent, billions maybe, on what will almost certainly be efforts to "make things safe" from cyberterrorism.

The most important job this Commission, however, will be to direct attention away from the real issues: who was/is responsible for developing weak, vulnerable infrastructures in this country in the first place. (Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain, the men who built the crumbling infrastructures of Internet Central in the first place.)

Second, while it would be foolish to deny that problems exists with thieves who use computers and cyberspace, where some child pornography and a whole hell of a lot of money laundering takes place, cyberspace is merely a reflection of society, the good and the bad and a lot in between.

What then, do "cyber threats "actually look like? Who might carry them out. How? Where? And who will lead the effort to gather, collate, fold and staple all this valuable information? A recognized Internet expert? Someone with extensive experience in networks and cross-platform computing? Nope... not for Bill Clinton. Just wouldn't do.

No, sir, what we need to combat terrorism is, well, a goddamn, real life combat veteran, by gwad! Enter Robert T. March, chairman of this Infrastructure Protection Task Force. You can call him "Bob" or simply "The General" will do because, well, that's what he did most of his life and besides, it has a real nice ring to it.

The executive order creating this Commission states that the chairman be "from outside the Federal government," which Marsh is, technically, since he retired from the military in 1989. He still collects his "inside" the Federal government military retirement pay though. Question is, do you want someone who might played a part creating the mess, now deciding how to fix it?

The background information on General Marsh is kinda skimpy, at least for someone who spent the vast majority of his adult life, rising to the rank of General. He's 73, a West Point graduate, a resident Alexandria, a tony Virginia suburb a stone's throw from Washington, D.C.

"His last assignment was serving as the commander of the Air Force Systems Command, where he directed the research, development, test and acquisition of aerospace systems for the Air Force," reads his brief bio on the Web page. So we can at least legitimately guess that he was heavy into some kinds of high tech R&D and Procurement stuff, pushing paper and awarding big time contracts.

It seems that following his retirement, Marsh marched right back into research, development, test and acquisition, only, well, on the other side.

"He served as the first chairman of Thiokol Corp," his bio reads, "as it transitioned from Morton-Thiokol in 1989 to separate company status."

(Remember the Challenger Disaster in 1986? Can you spell O-rings? If you click on the company's Web page history section, this seems to be a non-event. Could there have been two Morton-Thiokol companies?)

Marsh is a very active senior, serving on the board and as a stockholder active in a surprising number of other high tech ventures, some or all of which could conceivably wind up providing all kinds of high priced of technical goodies to combat bad guys bent on physical and cyber destruction of our dear, up-until-now unprotected infrastructures.

And according to public information office of the Commission, Marsh intends on keeping his corporate goodies "but at a reduced compensation" because he was merely "designated" by the President -- which in White House jargon means...whatever the hell one wants it to mean-- as long as you don't have to give up the stock and the options and the director's fees (Being "designated" means never having to say I'm sorry.).

Marsh also has strong ties to CAE Electronics, a new U.S. company which markets high tech stuff. CAE has a Canadian papa, which, among the high tech goodies it markets are "Air Traffic Management Systems" and "Engineering and Software Support for Weapons Systems." So, having someone on the Director's payroll in the States, someone with 35 years of experience in the United States Air Force, makes good, er, business sense.

Marsh also owns 40,000 shares and makes $8,000.00 a year plus expenses for his directorship in Teknowledge, a Palo Alto high tech firm parked behind a fence and leafy trees. Teknowledge is very interested in communications and the Department of Defense. Here is how the company describes some of what it does:

"Since the DoD and many commercial businesses plan to conduct large-scale operations over international computer networks similar to the Internet, much of the Teknowledge's current and future project focus is in providing network associate systems to make access to knowledge easier, and network accelerators to make knowledge access over networks faster and more cost effective."

So, we're taking marketing here, not rocket science; it's easy to see how Teknowledge might be a "good fit" for any computer infrastructure "hardening" contracts. Cyberwarriors already have a name for it: "Minimum Essential Information Infrastructure (MEII) also known as "emergency lanes on the information highway."

Marsh is also a director of Comverse Government Systems Corp. Among the things that Comverse makes are digital monitoring systems for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Oh? Yes. Digital wiretapping, monitoring, as in...why...yes...of course. The perfect party gift for the FBI in search of the hackers who put on those nasty things on the Justice Department Web site.

Marsh also is a trustee of MITRE Corp, which, we see , is into air defense and other command, control, communications, and intelligence systems used by Department of Defense clients. The company's ties to the defense intelligence community go back to the late 1950, with project code names such as HAVE STARE and STEEL TRAP.

And when the General takes his World Tour back home D.C. will we ever see it's findings? The Commission isn't bound by the Freedom of Information Act, so we don't have those thumb screws to turn. However, the Commission is governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which, in part, is there to "to open to public scrutiny the manner in which government agencies obtain advise from private individuals." Of course, this situation being one of vital national security interest, cyber-terrorists and all tha t, don't expect a flood of documents and sunshine from the General.

Apart from the General, there's an interesting internal conflict on the Commission. You see, though it's headed by a "civilian," it's run by the FBI, which doesn't get along with the CIA and neither get along with all that well with the NSA. It's a schizophrenic role for the FBI, to be sure. Actually, there are people in the FBI who at least know the right questions to ask, that's a start. The problem is whether their questions can be heard over the din of furious, clueless answers shouted out by Dir. Louis Freeh, James Kallestrom and others in their own agency.

So, come on out and give the General a few choice thoughts... and don't forget to call to reserve your spot in line... government operators are standing by, ahem, from the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST only, of course.

But hurry, this country is not sold in stores.

---------------------------------

Lewis Koch <lzkoch@mcs.net>


Copyright © 1997 CyberWire Dispatch / Brock N. Meeks <brock@well.com>