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Author Archive: "Richard A. Clarke"

Will 2012 be as different from 2007 as we are from 1990?

The pace of technological change is accelerating.

We can expect significant change in the next five to ten years in nano technology, bio-genetic engineering, information technology, robotics, pharmacology, neurology, and human-machine interface implants. Some of those changes seem today like science fiction fantasies.

But anyone born around 1970 or earlier may be able to remember technology in 1990. That year CIA personnel showed me a camera that had no film. They planned to plug it in to a satellite telephone and somehow transmit pictures from the camera in Iraq to a desktop computer in Virginia. I was amazed and incredulous: "How do you take pictures without film?" By 2000 I was sitting in a room in CIA headquarters in Virginia seeing live images from a robot aircraft flying on the other side of the globe: "Follow that red truck that's leaving the al Qaeda camp."

In 1990 few of us used the Internet in any way or imagined that we would soon be carrying a Star Trek-like personal communicator that would be connected to the Internet, yet now I cannot imagine life without my Blackberry. ...


The Cost of Cyber Crime

As Special Advisor to the President for Cybersecurity, I became aware of how much our government, economy, and society depend upon computer controlled networks. Everything we do all day long is dependent, reliant, upon cyberspace. It's a lot more than e-mails; it's what runs banking, electric power grids, air travel, medical centers. And because of the high error rate in the writing of computer code, there are holes in our software, holes that are used by malicious hackers to gain entry into these networks.

Everyday, malicious hackers steal privacy data such as credit card and social security numbers. Espionage in cyberspace steals sensitive data from companies and government agencies on a regular basis. When an airline could not access its reservation system, they cancelled all flights. When a hospital's server crashed, they sent all patients home and cancelled surgeries. The cost of cyber crime to U.S. citizens and companies is in the billions of dollars annually.

Nation states have created cyber warfare units to attack by taking control of systems run by computers. Chinese military officials have publicly discussed the fact that they might turn off America's power grid in a future conflict. ...


Breakpoint

I have tried over my government career to help policy makers see what was around the corner, what was coming next, what they should begin to think about before it happened. Since being in the private sector, I have tried to do the same through speeches, op-ed, and through fiction. Why fiction? Ask yourself how many people will become aware of the threat from terrorists with nuclear or radiological material ("suitcase nukes") by watching the Fox TV show 24 versus how many would watch a serious documentary on the same subject by PBS Frontline. Novels, particularly thrillers, reach a broader and different audience than non-fiction. As I wrote about my first novel, The Scorpion's Gate, sometimes you can tell more truth through fiction.

In The Scorpion's Gate I wrote about a Secretary of Defense who, in 2010, is plotting to get us involved in a wider war in the Arabian Gulf, hoping to lock up access to the region's oil, and possibly throwing us into conflict with Iran. In the backdrop, political contributions were influencing the way the Administration and key members of Congress looked at the ...


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