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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 22, 1999
                DR. JOSHUA LEDERBERG, NOBEL LAUREATE,       

                     National Academy of Sciences
                          Washington. D.C.            

MR. BERGER: Good morning to all of you and welcome. Let me thank you all for coming. Let me acknowledge in particular Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Dr. William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering; and Dr. Kenneth Shine, President of the National Academy of Medicine.

We are here to discuss emerging threats to America's security as we reach a new century. How do we respond to the threat of terrorists around the world, turning from bullets and bombs to even more insidious and potent weapons? What if they and the rogue states that sponsor them try to attack the critical computer systems that drive our society? What if they seek to use chemical, biological, even nuclear weapons? The United States must deal with these emerging threats now, so that the instruments of prevention develop at least as rapidly as the instruments of disruption.

Today we are confronting these challenges with an extraordinary team of dedicated professionals across our government -- with law enforcement efforts headed by Attorney General Reno and FBI Director Freeh; with strong diplomacy backed by a strong defense under Secretary of State Albright and Secretary of Defense Cohen; with better intelligence under the direction of Director Tenet; and determined efforts to contain weapons proliferation under Energy Secretary Richardson; with emergency management under FEMA Director Witt; private industry cooperation directed by Secretary Daley; and aviation security under Transportation Secretary Slater; and with public health and management and medical research guided by Health and Human Services Secretary Shalala -- who probably did not think she was going to be part of the national security team when she became Secretary of HHS.

And since last spring, with the efforts of the President's National Coordinator for Security Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, who is working to make all these pieces fit together in a united effort. And most of all, we have a President who, from the outset of his administration, has put the task of meeting new security threats at the very forefront of our national security strategy -- a President who has driven all of us to seek out the best minds and ask the important questions as we prepare for the future.

Today the President will announce new initiatives to combat these emerging threats. But before the President addresses us, I want to present two important representatives of the private sector. The involvement of the private sector in these efforts, from top researchers at our universities to industry leaders, together with the participation of state and local governments, is absolutely critical if we are to succeed.

We're pleased to be joined today by Jamie Gorelick, who will discuss the danger that our critical infrastructures are becoming vulnerable to computer and other forms of attack, the cyber threat. She is Vice Chair of Fannie Mae, the nation's largest funder for home mortgages. She is also the former co-chair of the Advisory Committee of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection. And we in the administration know her well from her extraordinarily able tenure as Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel of the Department of Defense.

But first we will hear from Dr. Joshua Lederberg, a geneticist and President Emeritus of the Rockefeller University in New York. Dr. Lederberg won the Nobel Prize in Medicine at age 33 -- which, I suppose, not only makes me a failure -- (laughter) -- but only gives my children a few years. (Laughter.) At least the President can say that he was governor by the time he was 33. (Laughter and applause.)

Dr. Lederberg has been a frequent advisor to our government on the threat of biological weapons, and he was a key participant in a roundtable on this issue that the President convened last spring.

Dr. Lederberg. (Applause.)

DR. LEDERBERG: Mr. President, distinguished officers of government, scientific colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. For over half a century I've had the joy and excitement of research on the microbial world, its evolution, the conspiracies it harbors, and its ambiguous competition with the human species.

There have been many occasions in this very hall to share news of profound scientific discoveries which not only broaden our conceptual understanding of ourselves and our biological extended family in the living world, but gave us ever sharper tools to deal with pestilence and decay.

But throughout that time, I've been imbued with the fear that, just as happened with physics and chemistry, that great advances in medicine would be turned into engines of war. That fear has been compounded by the deterioration of civil order that might otherwise restrain the use of weapons of mass destruction, and by the ease with which nature already provides the germs of disease that might be used as weapons.

In fact, the very triumph of the democratic world's military technology with guided missiles and dominance of the battlefield drives the agents of disorder to ever more subversive means of attack and inspires new scales of terrorism, grand and small.

We have made great progress, diplomatically and in international law, with the prohibitions against biological and chemical weapons, though there is some way to go in their enforcement. However, our civilian populations have, until now, been almost undefended against bioterrorism, in an era where political disorder weakens the system of deterrence that had been our main shield throughout the Cold War.

The reconstruction of bio-defenses must be regarded as a branch of public health and it is equally necessary to deal with cyclic renewals of historic national plagues as much as with those borne of malice.

So it has been extremely gratifying that during the past months and year these concerns, voiced so persuasively by many of my colleagues here at the Academy and the Institute of Medicine, have reached the attention of the highest levels of government, and action plans have been embodied in numerous executive orders and in the budgetary proposals that the President will discuss this morning.

Thank you, and here's Jamie Gorelick. (Applause.)

MS. GORELICK: Mr. President, distinguished guests. Ten years ago I would not have put cyber terrorism at the top of the threats to our national security. But the landscape has changed. Given how well-armed we are, as Josh said, as a nation, but how reliant we are on computers in our everyday business and private lives, our nation's cyber systems become a tremendous target.

Today a small group of technically sophisticated people with nothing more than off-the-shelf computer equipment can get into, can disrupt the computers and the Internet connections on which our finance, telecommunications, power, water systems, emergency service systems all depend.

Is this speculation? No, it is not. In exercise eligible receiver, our Defense Department conducted a war game using this technique and came to just that conclusion. And terrorists, organized crime, drug cartels, as well as nation states are either creating cybertech capabilities or are talking about using them. I believe that cyberspace is the next battlefield for this nation.

Now, cyber terrorism may be a new issue to many Americans, but it's not new to me and it's not new to this administration. In 1995, our Attorney General asked me to chair a critical infrastructure working group that brought together Justice and Defense and the intelligence community to begin to address what we saw as a new and emerging threat. The President then appointed a commission on critical infrastructure protection whose advisory board I co-chaired.

In response to his commission's work, last year the President signed two directives -- to strengthen U.S. readiness to meet unconventional threats to our nation, and to protect our critical infrastructures. He appointed a national coordinator, Dick Clarke, to review and handle and coordinate security infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, and a national plan is under development to ensure that America can defend itself in cyberspace.

Now, as part of that national plan I hope that we can see action in a number of areas, three of which I see as particularly pressing. The first, both the public and private sectors need to be aware of the problem and the security measures that can be taken to address it. I'd like to see the private sector work with the federal government to make sure that we have enough people who are trained in computer security, which we do not now have.

Second, we need to encourage ways for the government and the private sector to share information on cyber intrusions and on new techniques for preventing those intrusions, and responding to them. A government-chartered, privately-run center could do this, and also help develop standards for use in both industry and government. This will complement the government's obligation to ensure that we have the ability to respond as a nation to any attack.

Third, the companies that manage and assess risk for private sector clients, like insurance companies and accounting firms, need to focus on the risk that American businesses face from cyber attacks. I'd like to see the widespread use of cyber security best practices and standards as a tool of good business management for every business.

I want to thank the President for his appreciation of the threat and his commitment of resources to address it. And I will urge the business community to respond in kind. This President has always been sensitive to the promise of the Information Age, what it can mean to students, what it can mean to families, to a world drawn closer in many ways by the speed of communication. At the same time, he knows that that promise comes with a price, and the price is vigilance, because so much is at stake.

We're grateful for his leadership both in promoting the cyber world and in protecting it.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and my personal privilege to present to you the President of the United States. (Applause.)