The rapid diffusion of information enabled by technological advances [challenges] the relevance of traditional organizational and management principles. As a result, the army said it must recognize where bold change is necessary and where little or no change is needed. The same kind of statement might equally be applied to the criminal justice system.

GT: At the same time you talk about the promise, you also talk about the threat of new technology. Can you explain what you mean by this?

Meese: We have to recognize

that technology is equally available

to the criminal as it is to the forces of law enforcement. And so new technology and new concepts are available to criminals.

Computer crime -- which is a whole new area of criminal activity -- and the use of computers and other technological advances in ordinary crime is now a fact of daily life. A recent survey by an organization called War Room Research Co., which is a computer technology study organization, found that 58 percent of the companies they surveyed say that outsiders have illegally tried to get into the company computers in the last year. Interestingly enough, most of these intrusions were not by teenage hackers, which has been one the banes of computer systems existence in the past. Many of these intrusions were competitors trying to get proprietary business information which is nothing less than theft.

One of the big issues that is going to have to be taken up is to what extent the government is going to be able to step in and assist, as they do in most kinds of crime, or to what extent private business is going to have to develop a greater capability both for the securing and the prevention of crime involving high-tech instruments such as computers.

The use of computers in theft and fraud schemes is going to increase. The Internet is one of those vehicles for increased criminality. And because of the high level of sophistication of communications today, we can also see that this is going to be a matter of international importance.

GT: Talking about Internet and the increasingly global nature of crime, national borders mean less and less as far as many different types of criminal activity. In some ways, something like the Internet plays havoc with national boundaries and law enforcement.

Meese: That's true. And that's why ultimately we will have to go to a global information-sharing capability in order to deal with crime. It used to be that county boundaries were constantly transgressed by criminals. Then it was state boundaries, now it is national boundaries. Since the boundaries often don't mean anything, we have to have the capability of sharing information on a global basis. But I think our immediate task is to get up to the point where we can do it on a national basis before we start thinking about doing it on a global basis.

There are copyright issues. There are civil liberty issues. There are privacy issues. There are a lot of issues that need to be worked out and they are more easily worked out within the concept of a nation than they are on a global basis. So once we get things figured out nationally, then we can go to work on some of these on an international basis.

GT: You have a very clear vision of how new technology can greatly improve our justice system. Can you elaborate on this?

Meese: The police field is where the most progress has been made in utilizing new technology. Computers are critical in community policing, both the processing of the increase of information that police departments are now able to gain because they have much more public cooperation and therefore have much more information coming in

Blake Harris  |  Editor