Richard Clarke, US Security Wonk, Suggests Customs Should Check All International Net Traffic

Richard Clarke was a major feature in US security for a decade, serving as a member of the National Security Council and special adviser for cybersecurity to President George W. Bush. He has written a column for the New York Times that details just how serious the threat of cyber attacks is for this country, something increasingly evident in light of things like the creaking infrastructure of things like NASA and general cluelessness in legislature.

But Mr Clark gives the world a lesson in cluelessness with the conclusion of his column, where he suggests that the United States should, under provisions made to regulate the movement of goods to and from this country, inspect international internet traffic. The suggestion is, in a word, idiotic.

Believe it or not, the following was written by someone who worked in national security — specializing in cybersecurity, no less — for years and years:

Under Customs authority, the Department of Homeland Security could inspect what enters and exits the United States in cyberspace. Customs already looks online for child pornography crossing our virtual borders. And under the Intelligence Act, the president could issue a finding that would authorize agencies to scan Internet traffic outside the United States and seize sensitive files stolen from within our borders.

Mr Clark, I have to tell you, that is the dumbest goddamn idea I’ve heard in a long time. And I work in a business with one of the highest concentrations of dumb ideas per capita in the world.

The objections to this proposal will come so quickly and so readily to the mind of anyone at all concerned about privacy and legislation, at all versed in internet infrastructure or cybersecurity, or at all familiar with reality, that I don’t think it’s necessary to go through them in detail. By the time most of our readers finished reading that paragraph, they probably had three or four separate objections.

What you suggest is absurd to contemplate, let alone legislate. It would be impossible to pull off technically, legally, diplomatically, and unlikely to be supported in any way by the people of this country, or any free country. It is fear-mongering, monomaniacal, totally unrealistic nonsense.

I just wanted to post this here as yet another example of how the people whose job it is to understand and take action on things like technology, international cybersecurity, and the internet, are completely disconnected from reality. It terrifies me that such a man held such a post for so long, and I tremble to think of the damage he has already wrought.