Reno: No. Generally speaking, for day-to-day permanency, local law enforcement has got to fund its needs. The purpose of federal funding is to show that a program works and convince a community that its worth taking over. Community policing and 100,000 cops is an example of how the federal government jump-started it and the communities carried through with it.
In this instance, the federal government could jump-start some really productive partnerships with joint computer-forensic laboratories and joint initiatives that would permit federal, state and local government to work together. Its important that we focus on the issue of terrorism.
We think of terrorism as being the product of weapons of mass destruction, but you could have a field day, in terms of terrorist acts, just on a computer. Weve got to be prepared for it, and, oftentimes, its going to be local law enforcement thats first on the front line.
GT: During your time at the Justice Department, did you see a gradual erosion of turf issues between levels of law enforcement?
Reno: I saw, in many instances, erosion of turf issues; some maintained themselves despite my best efforts.
As I left, I was urging the bureau to provide Congress with a road map of where the bureau wanted to go in terms of developing the expertise and the capacity to be prepared and to share with state and local governments in a way that would really provide an effective link.
GT: I saw a story out of Broward County, Fla., where they were thinking of testing a new electronic voting system. Officials had entertained the idea of inviting some local high-school hackers to have a run at the system to see if they could break into it. I thought it was a clever idea, but it didnt seem to go over well with the County Council. Is that the kind of thing that local governments need to do to safeguard systems they want to try out? Or do you think thats not the right step to take?
Reno: I didnt hear about that story. But, somehow, weve got to test these systems. When you look at the identity theft thats occurring and some of the other inappropriate uses of the Net, its mind-boggling that people dont realize how vulnerable it is in terms of privacy and security.
Again, industrys got to realize that when its hurt and hurt bad, its going to need law enforcement. Law enforcement has got to realize it needs industry.
GT: Is it necessary to understand what motivates Internet crackers to catch them? Or is it just necessary to catch them and lower the boom on them?
Reno: Its always helpful to know why people commit crimes to see what you can do to prevent crimes. But if you cant prevent it, youve got to have a fair, firm punishment to fit the crime.
GT: I notice that one new initiative from the current U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft, is the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Units -- the regional computer teams. Is a smaller, leaner fighting force the way to pursue Internet crime?
Reno: It depends on the jurisdiction. You just have to build on what youve got and make sure that you have the expertise; that you have the contacts around the world; that you have the capacity 24/7 to immediately identify the hack and take steps to trace it.
It requires the cooperation of foreign law enforcement, which is going to require the federal government to work with state and locals to ensure access to these foreign law enforcement agencies and to ensure that cyber criminals know that theres no safe place to hide.