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09 July 2003

U.S. Officials Will Participate in Argentina Conference on Cyber Security

(Meeting aims to develop OAS plan against Internet-based crimes) (650)
By Eric Green


Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- The United States will join fellow member countries of
the Organization of American States (OAS) at a July 28-29 conference
in Buenos Aires to begin developing a unified hemispheric strategy for
ensuring security on the Internet.


The meeting's agenda will feature discussion of a resolution presented
by the United States and approved by the OAS General Assembly in late
June that calls for building an inter-American strategy against
threats to computer information systems and networks.

The resolution notes that other OAS meetings on the subject have
called cyber security-related crimes an "emerging terrorist threat."
In addition, the resolution says OAS member states need to "strengthen
cooperation" against threats to cyber security.

Heading the 11-person U.S. delegation at the Argentina meeting is
Michelle Markoff, deputy director of the State Department's Office of
Plans, Policy, and Analysis. The delegation will also include other
State Department officials, among them a representative from the U.S.
Mission to the OAS.

Other U.S. officials from the Departments of Defense, Homeland
Security, and Justice will be in Buenos Aires for the conference. One
of the officials from the Justice Department attending the conference
will be Leonard Bailey, a trial attorney for the department's Computer
Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Bailey was elected to chair a
June 23-24 OAS meeting in Washington, where experts discussed how to
intensify strategies against Internet-based crimes.

State Department official Lincoln Bloomfield said in a January 23
speech that the United States regards as a high priority the ensuring
of cyber security, which he defined as protecting the safety of
network information systems.

Speaking in San Salvador to the OAS Inter-American Committee Against
Terrorism (CICTE), Bloomfield said the United States is seriously
concerned that the "full promise" of the Internet technology
revolution may never be realized, because its reliability is
repeatedly threatened.

Bloomfield, who is assistant secretary of state for political-military
affairs, warned that "every day brings more stories of system
vulnerabilities being criminally exploited, resulting in economic
losses and downtime." If these "vulnerabilities are exploited
systematically by hostile individuals or groups, our national security
can be threatened," he said.

He added that the United States has concluded that "no matter what
steps individual states might take to safeguard their own critical
information infrastructures, none of us will be secure until the least
secure among us has addressed the issue."

The United States believes that it is particularly important for OAS
member states -- individually and as a group -- "to demonstrate early,
tangible, cooperative progress" in the area of cyber security "for our
own collective good in this hemisphere, and as a model for other
regions," Bloomfield said.

At the June OAS meeting in Washington, that organization's Secretary
General Cesar Gaviria said that given the international scope of the
problem, "mutual judicial cooperation and assistance is vital to
prevent, pursue, and punish" Internet-based crime.

Gaviria said collective action is crucial to fight "this new form of
crime," which he cited as one of the greatest challenges to
international judicial cooperation. Internet-based crime, he said,
"poses a severe threat" to all states in the hemisphere where the
Internet is in wide use.

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States,
coupled with the development of transnational organized crime, "have
made it clear that we must speed up efforts to strengthen and
consolidate international cooperation to effectively combat a variety
of international crime mechanisms," Gaviria said.

Gaviria also spoke about terrorist groups exploiting the Internet, and
added that it is "unacceptable for illegal armed groups, such as those
committing terrorist acts in Colombia, to be able to abuse tools like
the Internet to defend their criminal deeds."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)