http://www.uniontrib.com/news/computing/20020320-1620-fbicybercrime.html By Ted Bridis ASSOCIATED PRESS March 20, 2002 WASHINGTON - The FBI is strongly considering a plan to dismantle its premier cyber-security unit, responsible for protecting the nation's most important computer networks, and instead focus more narrowly on arresting online criminals and hackers. FBI Director Robert Mueller has outlined a plan on Capitol Hill in recent weeks to break up the $27 million-a-year National Infrastructure Protection Center, formed in February 1998 to watch over the nation's systems controlling banking, water, power, telecommunications and government. Mueller was expected to make a formal decision as early as next week, administration and congressional sources said Wednesday. An FBI spokesman said no plans have been finalized. The topic was expected to come up during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Thursday. The proposal to dismantle the unit, whose reputation has improved markedly in the past year after a string of early embarrassments, already is raising concerns among some lawmakers, Bush administration officials and industry experts. They worry that a narrow focus by the FBI on criminal investigations into computer attacks might discourage corporations from disclosing details of threats and attacks on their private networks. The move "would destroy the fragile trust between NIPC and the private sector, which controls 90 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure," Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote this week in a letter to the FBI director. "The broken trust would, in turn, curtail, if not end, the flow of information from the private sector to the FBI, leaving the bureau essentially blind about threats to critical infrastructure." Grassley, a Judiciary Committee member and one of the FBI's toughest congressional critics, indicated that Mueller outlined the proposal in a meeting last month. Other congressional and administration sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they also have discussed the proposal in recent weeks with Mueller. Some who discussed the idea with the director said they believed he was leaning toward breaking up the unit; others said they thought he was only considering the idea. Grassley cautioned Mueller: "You do not fully realize the consequences of your proposal." The plan Mueller has described would move most of the unit's functions into a newly formed cyber-crime division under the FBI's new executive assistant director for criminal investigations, Bruce J. Gebhardt, whose background is mostly in organized crime and drug cases. Other parts of the unit would be moved into existing FBI divisions focused on counterterrorism and counterintelligence. "It doesn't sound like a particularly good idea," said Harris Miller, head of the Washington-based Information Technology Association of America, a trade group. "If it's put into the criminal division, it becomes an enforcement function, not an information exchange." The ITAA runs an early-warning center about online threats for the nation's technology companies. Other such centers exist in the electric, telecommunications and financial industries. Grassley warned Mueller that some companies participating in such privately organized warning centers have indicated they would stop sharing details with the FBI about online threats if the unit were dismantled. Under the plan, it was unclear how or whether the FBI would continue to exchange warnings with U.S. corporations about online threats. Already, that branch of the FBI unit is physically moving out of the bureau's headquarters to share a building near the White House with part of the Office of Homeland Security and a little-known cyber-protection unit within the Commerce Department. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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