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Editor's Note

past issue

I wanted to bring this to your attention.

U.S. prepares for Y2K violence

Officials fear ‘cyber attacks’

Web posted August 31, 1999 by Reuters Limited, 1999.

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening talks to Lt. General James F. Fretterd, of the Maryland National Guard, during a meeting of the governor's Year 2000 Readiness Task Force on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 — The U.S. government is preparing for possible violence from cults, guerrillas, hate groups and end-of-world-fearing zealots as 2000 approaches. Law enforcement officials are working on contingency plans to cope with everything from cyber attacks to bombs at New Year’s Eve parties, though they say they lack knowledge of specific, credible threats.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation "expects to see increased and possibly violent activities among certain domestic groups related to the millennium," a top FBI official, Michael Vatis warned Congress in July.  Michael Vatis, head of a new FBI-led interagency center to protect critical U.S. infrastructure, cited in particular a fringe view among white supremacists that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle.

This requires the faithful "to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ by taking violent action against their enemies," Vatis told a special Senate panel in July on the Y2K technology glitch.
The panel is looking into pitfalls of the Y2K problem, a coding glitch that could cause ill-prepared computers to misread 2000 as 1900 and trigger system-wide shutdowns.

Vatis did not cite possible targets but FBI Director Louis Freeh has said they included Jews, non-whites and their "establishment allies, i.e. the federal government."   The FBI counter-terrorism section "has been planning for any violent activity by such groups," said Vatis, who is leading a separate drive to thwart cyber attacks that could disrupt the economy or government.  At issue is the fear that Jan. 1, 2000, may seem like a watershed date for fanatics ready to put end-of-world rhetoric into action.

END-OF-WORLD RHETORIC
Robert Blitzer, who retired last November as head of the FBI’s domestic counter-terrorism arm, cited the case of Buford Furrow Jr., the white supremacist who pleaded not guilty Monday to killing a Filipino-American letter carrier after shooting up a Jewish community center in the Los Angeles area.  Furrow turned himself in to the FBI after the Aug. 10 attacks. He allegedly told authorities the shooting was a "wake up call to America to kill Jews."

APOCALYPTIC CULTS
Groups with similar views or apocalyptic cults like Heaven’s Gate, 30 of whose members committed mass suicide in 1997, may deem the rollover to 2000 "a good time for them to make their mark on history," said Blitzer.

"I know there are still continuing to be serious threats from abroad," added Blitzer, who now consults on counter-terrorism at the Science Applications International Corporation in McLean, Virginia.  He was unaware of any specific credible threats but said foreign foes had already shown what they were capable of in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

Freeh has warned Congress that white supremacist extremists may stage armed robberies to finance what some view as the coming "Battle of Armageddon" between the forces of good and evil.  Some of these extremists believe that this entails whites fighting "Satan’s heirs," the FBI chief told a Senate Appropriations panel on Feb. 4. In such a world view, he said, "Satan’s heirs" were defined as Jews, non whites and their supposed allies in the federal government.

CIA INVOLVEMENT
John Gordon, deputy director of the U.S. intelligence community, said the CIA and its 12 sister spy outfits were tightening their drills to monitor events at the date change.   "We are strengthening the communications processes between centers," he told a Senate Armed Services panel on Feb. 24. "We are preparing for the potential that there may be situations erupting worldwide and within our own systems environment."

In addition to the perceived threat from within, U.S. officials fear anti-Western guerrilla groups and others may try to take advantage of the federal stretch to keep tabs on any Y2K related failures. The White House is setting up a $40 million information coordination center to help policymakers with Year 2000 issues and coordinate any emergency responses.

"In some instances, it may not be immediately apparent whether a service outage is the result of the ’millennium bug’ or a computer intrusion," Vatis testified. Such uncertainty could make Y2K an inviting date for malicious strikes, officials said.

Together with a Pentagon task force for computer network defense, Vatis’ National Infrastructure Protection Center will hold a classified, two-day conference called "Preparing for Cyberwar," including Y2K contingencies, in early October.