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Clarke book cites management, info-sharing problems at DHS

Poor communications were just one problem on 9/11

By Dan Verton
March 23, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The Bush administration's homeland security strategy, including its new emphasis on cybersecurity, is poorly managed and being held hostage to decades-old cultural and turf battles, according to a new book out this week by former White House adviser Richard Clarke.
Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, hit stores yesterday and caused an immediate uproar in Washington. In it, Clarke accuses the Bush administration of politicizing the war on terror and forcing a virtual army of professional staffers to pull recalcitrant senior officials to the realization that national threats had changed and required new defenses.
Clarke ended a 30-year career in government last March as chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board and the de facto cybersecurity czar.
In 291 pages that describe detailed conversations and meetings with the president and many of his key cabinet members, Clarke paints a portrait of an administration so sidetracked by the idea of deposing Saddam Hussein that many officials charged with setting up the new Department of Homeland Security and improving information sharing across agencies quit in frustration.
Even on Sept. 11, 2001, the ability of Clarke and other members of the president's senior White House staff to communicate and direct a response to the terrorist attacks was severely hampered by poor communications, according to Clarke.
"The comms in this place are terrible," said Vice President Dick Cheney, according to Clarke. He was referring to the East Wing bomb shelter in the White House.
"Now you know why I wanted the money for a new bunker," replied Clarke.
"I could not resist," he wrote later. "The President had canceled my plans for a replacement facility."

Former White House adviser Richard Clarke
Former White House adviser Richard Clarke


The FBI under former director Louis Freeh also falls squarely in Clarke's cross hairs for failing to take the issue of information sharing and IT infrastructure seriously.
"The lack of computer support was a failure of the bureau's leadership," wrote Clarke. "Local police departments throughout the country had far more advanced data systems than the FBI. In New York, I saw piles of terrorism files on the floor of the [FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force]. There was only one low-paid file clerk there, and he could not keep up with the volume of paper that was being generated. There was no way for one agent to know what information another agent had collected, even in the same office."
This was in "stark contrast to the CIA, NSA and the State Department," wrote Clarke, "which flooded my secure e-mail with over 100 detailed reports every day."
Eventually, the volume of intelligence reporting became so great after


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