Old IT systems help terrorists: Clinton

It is ironic that law enforcement agencies on the front line of the battle against terrorism are struggling with a 30-year-old computer system, former U.S. president Bill Clinton has said.

Speaking at the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT 2002) in Adelaide, Australia Wednesday, Clinton said that the U.S. law enforcement computer system wasn’t connected to other agencies and that the ramifications of poor government IT procedures really hit home after the attacks of Sept. 11 last year.

“The required infrastructure wasn’t in place, which is why terrorists living in the U.S. were not identified; warnings about unusual behavior from flight schools were written down at the FBI central office but not logged on to a computer and there was no cross checking,” Clinton said.

As a result of that failure, Clinton said, the U.S. government is now seriously committed to updating its IT and using modern technology as a means of fighting terrorism.

During his term as U.S. president, Clinton said the FBI was still able to thwart a terrorist attack at the Los Angeles airport, bombings during the 2000 New Year celebrations and planned attacks on four flights to the Philippines despite the 30-year-old system.

The theme of Clinton’s keynote address to the 1,800 delegates attending the WCIT was “more partners, fewer terrorists”, and how IT is central to world economic growth, which if used effectively can bridge the digital divide between rich and poor nations.

IT has bought global interdependence to the fore, Clinton said, but integration is required to ensure these divisions do not become greater.

Countries with a high rate of Internet connection need to use modern technology to reach out to poorer nations and ensure these countries do not become enclaves for terrorists, he said.