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Send in the pros. (Flip Side).

Not long ago, the Manhattan Institute's prestigious City Journal published a controversial article encouraging the United States government to recruit youthful computer hackers to help fight the war against terrorism. The article, written by City Journal's Edward John Craig and subsequently published in a truncated form in the New York Post, argued that the U.S. "desperately needs cyber-whizzes to protect its critical computer infrastructure."

Why? Because, according to a report by the Central Intelligence Agency, some 20 countries "are preparing cyberwar capabilities for use against the United States." This cyber-offensive, Craig warns, could include everything from "shutting down the 911 emergency-response system" to "disrupting the Eastern U.S. power grid during the August heat wave." To prevent this, the government should avail itself of the expertise provided by the legions of gifted hackers who regularly infiltrate government and corporate systems.

Craig realizes that hackers are widely loathed by the general public, but he believes such rancor is shortsighted. It misunderstands the highly nuanced hacker ethos. In his view, hackers are youthful "mischief-makers" rather than "destructive anarchists," light-hearted pranksters who "go about their illegal activities as a kind of ego-boosting 'gotcha,' breaking into computer systems without doing harm, but only exposing how the systems are vulnerable to attack." After which, "system administrators can then patch the hole before someone does real damage." To Craig, the next logical step is obvious: "Why not put some of these bright people to work fighting terror?"

I, for one, agree; the government should make every effort to enlist these hackers in the war against our enemies. But why stop there? The government could also begin recruiting demolition experts, arsonists and pyromaniacs, underworld hit men and freelance assassins in an effort to bring terrorists to their knees.

In the war against crime, patriotic criminals are very possibly the most underused resource in the Republic. It is widely known, for example, that Mafia button men rarely kill for money, but usually carry out such assassinations as a kind of "gotcha" that keeps other underworld figures on their toes. By taking out a Chicken Man or a Tony Six Knuckles, hit men help to expose gaping holes in the security system, holes that can then be patched, usually by other people named Chicken Man or Tony Six Knuckles. As most law enforcement authorities and editors at right-leaning quarterly magazines know, hit men are rarely destructive anarchists, but rather seasoned professionals who take a great deal of pride in their work. It is high time the federal government put them to work rooting out scum like Al Qaeda.

Obviously, the redeployment of gifted criminals into the civil service will not be achieved without criticism. Will such social pariahs be hired as permanent federal employees, or will they be furloughed once the threat to homeland security has passed? Will they be required to wear uniforms or badges? At what rank will they enter the civil service? 'Will a written test be required? Will federal authorities demand job recommendations from criminal associates, mentors, proteges or victims? Or will the thumbs-up from a local congressman suffice?

One group of people who will not be happy with this are run-of-the-mill, lower-echelon career criminals. Why, they will ask, is the federal government paying to secure the "consulting" services of flim-flam men, unreconstructed hit men and puckish hackers when burglars, second-story men and lowlifes who specialize in knocking over liquor stores have to earn their daily bread through grubby, downscale crime? The answer is deceptively obvious: In the war on terror, the American people don't need the help of two-bit felons. They need the pros.

Which brings us to the final point: Our terrorist enemies are masters of financial legerdemain, effortlessly moving hundreds of millions of dollars from one offshore account to another. To bring these guys to heel, the federal government has to bring in the best in the business.

Get the crew from Enron on the phone.

Joe Queenan ( is a regular columnist for CE.
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Title Annotation:computer hackers
Author:Queenan, Joe
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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