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NIPC loses one of its own to 'Beltway' sniper

By Dan Verton
October 16, 2002 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - FAIRFAX, Va.—The hunt for the Washington-area sniper got personal yesterday for members of the FBI's cybersecurity division after one of their own became the latest victim in a killing spree that has claimed nine lives since starting Oct. 2.

Linda Franklin, a 47-year-old intelligence operations specialist at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), was killed Monday night in the parking structure of a Home Depot in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County, Va. Her death is the latest in a series of random, sniperlike shootings that have sent fears of terrorism rippling through the communities where tens of thousands of government employees and high-tech industry executives live and work.

"Linda was a dedicated employee, and she will be missed," FBI Director Robert Mueller said in a statement released yesterday. "The employees who worked with Linda—and all of us—are deeply shocked and angry over this tragedy."

Franklin is remembered by colleagues at the NIPC as not only a "key asset" on the NIPC's analytical staff, but also as a great wife and friend. A cancer survivor, she underwent a mastectomy last October, and even before she was fully healthy she would invite others who had undergone similar surgery into her home for care.

"She would have as many as six people stay with her in a two-bed, two-bath house, plus maybe a half-dozen pets," said Paul Hulseberg, a former computer scientist at the NIPC and a longtime colleague and close personal friend of Franklin's. Hulseberg, whose work cubicle was located directly across from Franklin's, remembers her as being "instrumental" in getting the FBI's InfraGard program off the ground. InfraGard is the bureau's nationwide program for cyberthreat information sharing with the private sector.

"She worked many, many long days and weekends on that program," he said.

RC-7 Airborne Reconnaissance Low aircraft (photo courtesy, Federation of American Scientists)

Franklin had been with the NIPC for three and a half years, joining just as the cybersecurity unit was being formed. The NIPC is responsible for detecting and analyzing cyberthreats to the nation's critical computer systems and infrastructures, such as the telecommunications grid and electric power systems, and then warning government agencies and the private sector about those threats.

Coming as it did in a relatively crowded, well-lit parking garage situated in a busy shopping center known as Seven Corners, Franklin's murder significantly heightened tensions in the area and led the FBI to turn up the heat in the hunt for the killer. Pentagon officials said yesterday that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had approved a request from the FBI for surveillance support in the form of a U.S. Army intelligence-gathering aircraft.

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