Federal computer monitoring proposed

System to be overseen by FBI, raises concerns about civil liberties

July 28, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The Clinton administration has developed a plan for an extensive computer monitoring system, overseen by the FBI, to protect the nation's crucial data networks from intruders.

The plan, an outgrowth of the administration's anti-terrorism program, has already raised concerns from civil liberties groups.

A draft of the plan, prepared by officials at the National Security Council last month and provided to the New York Times by a civil liberties group, calls for a sophisticated software system to monitor activities on nonmilitary government networks by 2003 and a separate system to track networks used in the banking, telecommunications and transportation industries.

The effort, whose details are still being debated within the administration, is intended to alert law enforcement officials to attacks that might cripple the government or the nation's economy.

Critics say the proposed system could become the basis for a surveillance infrastructure with great potential for misuse. They argue that such a network of monitoring programs could itself be open to security breaches, giving intruders or unauthorized users a vast window into government and corporate computer systems.

The report is vague on several crucial points about the proposed system, including the kinds of data to be collected and the specific federal and corporate computer networks to be monitored.

Government officials said the National Security Council was conducting a legal and technical review of the plan and a final report is scheduled to be released in September, subject to President Clinton's approval.

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