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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DHS "data exhaust" (spoilers)

I'm on the East Coast this week, among other things doing my annual pilgrimage to attend the technology advisory board meeting of a NYSE-listed company. I had the occasion to take a limo ride for an hour and a half with an executive-protection contractor who'd worked for presidential protection details, corporate surveillance operations, and who'd travelled to Iraq and Afghanistan for the DHS. I couldn't resist asking him the million-dollar question:
"Is it really possible that the terrorists are so incompetent that they haven't been able to mount a successful operation on US soil in the ten years since 9/11?" His answer rather took me aback. Paraphrasing a ninety-minute discussion:
"That's because there is no threat. And if there were a threat, these guys would never uncover it in time to thwart it. All the billions spent on airport security and such are just a way for the old-boy network to get government contracts."

You see why I was taken aback? I did NOT expect this answer. Period. I rather hoped he'd explain that our intelligence capability was so superior that we nipped the bad guys in some unpublic ways and did so with extreme prejudice. Do I believe the above assessment of DHS incompetence? Not entirely. But there's enough "grain of truth" in this data exhaust to give it some credibility.

You might ask, "So, what does this have to do with your cyber privateering initiative?" I owe you an unambiguous answer. There IS a real cyber threat. Unfortunately, the federal government's business-as-usual attitude, of letting the defense contractors line up at the trough, is counter productive to getting the real job done. Not impossible, but the economics are staggering. A reasonable balance to federal largess is to have self-funding monetization of cyberwar and cybercrime threats through licensed and bonded…you guessed it…cyber privateers.

Yeah, we need a real-life Tony Stark strutting down the halls of congress boasting that he's successfully privatized national cyber security.

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?