Office of the Press Secretary

January 5, 2001


The James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:20 P.M. EST


Q Jake, what's the goal of this new counter-intelligence board and why does the President think it's needed?

MR. SIEWERT: It's needed because the world has changed a little bit and we've moved away from a system where -- we've moved into a world in which threats are more diverse and diffuse and we need a counter-intelligence capacity that recognizes the realities of the changing world. As I was telling some of you this morning, a threat today can as easily come from a laptop as it could from an old cloak-and-dagger spy, and we need a counter-intelligence capability that matches that new globalized reality.

Just for example, in the wake of some of the viruses that struck last year, the President met with high-tech officials and talked to them about the problems of cyber security. That's a new threat and one that we need to address, one we need to have an ability to work across agencies in a collaborative process to address. And that's something that the President heard directly from high-tech CEOs when they were here.

Because the virus that was spread, I believe, in Southeast Asia ended up affecting the private sector, but in a way that had an impact on national security by taking down the on-line capabilities of a lot of the nation's leading financial providers.

Q Jake, does the President envision a board or an individual czar of intelligence --

MR. SIEWERT: This is a little bit of both. There will be a new counter-intelligence executive. There will also be a board. But the idea, primarily, is to create a process through which the agencies that are charged with the responsibilities for counter-intelligence -- primarily the CIA, Department of Defense and the FBI -- can work together in a way that's more coordinated and looks at new threats, assesses them and decides how to protect our secrets.

Q When will this executive be picked?

MR. SIEWERT: I assume he'll be picked by the next administration.

Q In response to the Wen Ho Lee case and the lack of sharing of information between agencies --

MR. SIEWERT: I think this work was well underway before that particular case came to the public eye. But, obviously, this reflects the work of a lot of different agencies and 18 months of work. I'm sure they took a look at that case and made an assessment about what they could do to improve their system.