- An online network of law-enforcement agents should be
created and empowered to operate across jurisdictional lines with a minimum
of red tape, US Attorney General Janet Reno announced yesterday. "There
is a dark side of hacking, crashing networks and viruses that we absolutely
must address," Reno told the National Association of Attorneys General
during a conference at Stanford University on Monday.
- Reno introduced her brainchild, dubbed LawNet, as an
online law-enforcement agency which would employ both alpha geeks and law-enforcement
officers, and which should be able to evade the jurisdictional red tape
that often obstructs investigations and prosecutions of crimes carried
out on or by means of the Internet. It would be useful in cases where the
Net has served as a link between criminal and victim and so blurred numerous
legal distinctions, including the most basic question of where such a crime
- Presumably, LawNet would constitute some sort of independent,
stand-alone law-enforcement agency charged with patrolling the Internet.
"I envision a network that extends from local detectives to the FBI
to investigators abroad," Reno said. She also proposed new interstate
jurisdictional standards to simplify the execution of warrants pursuant
to online investigations.
- Reno cited an FBI survey of Fortune 500 companies claiming
that 62 percent reported some form of computer security breach during the
past year, a figure which strikes us as somewhat inflated, and most likely
the result of considerable statistical massaging intended to alarm the
- Reno's LawNet recapitulates a controversial White House
proposal issued last year called FIDNET, which was roundly denounced by
libertarian groups as an Orwellian initiative with great potential for
government abuse of civilian privacy and legal rights.
- Reno would beg to differ. LawNet will address privacy
issues, and actually protect online consumers from invasions like the recent
CD Universe extortion case, she promised. ®