Candy Crowley in her interview this morning with White House advisor, John Brennan opened new and vital dialogue on terrorism and the Internet. She hit a home run in my world. Realize that Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder were the hot tickets on the dueling Sunday morning shows. But alas no one other than Crowley had the guts to rip off this proverbial bandaid. Sadly, many of the others continued to play the rating game by sensationalizing aspects of the situation rather than getting down and dirty. It is long overdue to re-open this important conversation. We can no longer avoid talking about the elephant in the room given the heated civil rights issues, privacy concerns, and the full implications of the use of the extended Patriot Act. Bravo to Crowley for setting the stage for beginning this discourse that deserves the time and consideration of those writing US policy and laws. Admittedly, she just took off the bandage and didn't clean the wound, but at least the questions have been asked.
As John Brennan said this morning, "Well the Internet now is the arena that that terrorist groups are trying to exploit to propagate their message, to reach out, to identify individuals, recruit them, contact them. And so Mr. al-Awlaki has been over the past number of years, spewing a lot of this venom internationally via the Internet. And his messages are resonating with some individuals, unfortunately, who also adhere to this distorted agenda."
The question begging to be asked concerns the Internet as both a communication and collaboration vehicle for terrorism. Is there a proverbial Facebook, MySpace or Meet Up in the cloud for organizing and communicating to enlist young minds to commit acts of terror? If the answer is yes - how do we turn the brilliance of our technologists to addressing these issues of cyber security going forward? And finally, how do we manage the difficult and treacherous balancing act in safeguarding civil and human rights? Yes we all know that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is paying attention, as is Attorney General Holder and Secretary Janet Napolitano, but how are they framing these all important issues concerning civil liberties, the Internet and national security?
These are some of the grave, yet very important questions, of our time. Admittedly, we all know that the US government monitors communications in cyberspace from email to voice to Twitter - but where is the brilliance of the best minds of technology in potentially devising new mechanisms to somehow safeguard, without intruding into everyday life? As Crowley asks today, why wasn't there even a type of "amber alert" used with the alleged terrorist, Shahzad as he attempted to flee the US.
I, by no means have the answer, but rather would like to see more active and vibrant dialogue among our technology giants and leaders. Google, Cisco and now more recently Facebook, have all stepped up to the political plate attempting to shape US communications policy. What is the next step? How do we lead, and not react? Consider this a Call to Action for those with knowledge, know-how, tools, resources and big voices to come forward.
Consider this a Call to Conversation to ask the quintessential questions facing us about the Internet, terrorism, privacy, security and policy.
Please see my pearltree below with select reference materials for this post.