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Special Event

President Clinton Meets with Industry Leaders on Cyber- Security

Aired February 15, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: A week after those crippling on-line assaults against popular Internet Web sites, sources tell CNN the FBI is ready to interview suspects. Two, we're told, go by the aliases "Coolio" and "Mafiaboy." Meanwhile, at the White House, a meeting on cyber-security is under way.

Let's go in and take a listen to what's happening there.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... how to protect privacy and civil liberties, but also how to keep the Internet open.

Keep in mind, one of the reasons this thing has worked so well is that it has been free of government regulation. The only contribution the government made to the Internet was the early research over 30 years ago now, I guess, it's '69. And that's what we -- there may be more work for us to do in research here.

But I think that insofar as we can, we ought to stay with what brought us here. The companies and the sector they represent in this room are about 8 percent of our employment, they do represent, Peter said, over 30 percent of our growth. And so the trick is going to be how to do what needs to be done on security and privacy and let -- and still keep it flourishing and growing.

But we ought to approach this with determination and we shouldn't be -- we shouldn't be surprised that these things have happened. It's just a replay of what has always happened whenever there's a new way of communicating, a new way of making money throughout human society, there's always going to be somebody that tries to take advantage of it. And we're figure out how to deal with it and go on.

QUESTION: One of the issues involved here is a string of information, and there are some reports this morning that banks were conscious of efforts to disable their systems but did not share that information more broadly. Can the government solve that without forcing industry or business to disclose information they would keep private?

CLINTON: Well, I think that -- let me tell you what I know about that, and there may be something I don't know, so I will offer that caution at the outset.

The Justice Department -- the FBI had certain information that they made broadly available. I think the banks were in better shape to take advantage of that information than others were. And I think one of the purposes of this meeting is to figure out what do we do from here forward to make sure that everybody is in the same position.

But I don't think that, based on what I know now, we should be out there finger-pointing at any sector of the economy and what they didn't do. I think that they were just better organized to engage in information sharing and set up the defenses necessary to guard against this. And what we really want is for every sector of our economy to be in the same position.

QUESTION: Mr. President, oil prices have now risen about $30 a barrel. Did that increase a need to do -- is there anything you can do about that, or are you more sympathetic to arguments toward reducing the strategic petroleum reserve?

CLINTON: I think we have to watch this the next few days. Now there's going to be -- there's going to be some important meetings with the oil-producing countries in the next few days, and we will know more about this in a week or 10 days about what the trends are going to be.

But the American people are handling the price increase pretty well in terms of every aspect of our lives because of increased energy efficiency except for home heating oil where you have, in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England, unfortunately, so many people are still dependent upon a source of heating, which the rest of the country left long-ago. And they are unbelievably burdened by this.

Now, we've released $2 million in LIHEAP funds so far. We can release more.

But that eases the burden on the poorest of our citizens, but there are a lot of working people on modest incomes that are just getting killed by this, because of their reliance on home heating oil.

And we -- you know, I have not closed off any options. I'm monitoring this on a daily basis. It's a deeply troubling thing but it's -- I think the rest of our country should know. I mean a lot of people are feeling the pinch maybe if they drive long distances because the price of gasoline has gone up. But there is a group of Americans -- the middle-class, the low middle-income Americans -- who have limited disposable income, who have no option to heat their home but home heating oil.

They're the people that are really getting hurt. And I hope -- and obviously the poor would be devastated by it, but we're monitoring that information and we're released enough of our -- of the federal funds that we have today go directly to benefit them.

This is a (inaudible) watching. We'll just have to see to see where we are and I may have more to say as the days go by. But we'll -- we should know more in a week about what the pre-lines are going to be and what's going to happen to the price of oil.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Did the White House deny a congressional committee's access to e-mail it subpoenaed?

CLINTON: I believe that we have complied with every request. And there have been thousands. If the American people knew how much of their money we've had to spend complying with requests for paper and e-mails, they might be quite amazed. But we certainly have tried our best to do that. There's been an intentional effort to do that, and I think that we are in full compliance. I believe we are.

MESERVE: President Bill Clinton taking questions in the Cabinet Room today about oil prices and e-mails, but the main subject today is Internet security. The president meeting with some officials from private industry to talk about what security measures can be taken in the wake of this series of cyber-attacks on popular Internet sites last week.

Joining us from the White House now, CNN's Kathleen Koch.

Kathleen, who exactly is at this meeting.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne, in the room with the president is a veritable who's who of the technology world, two of them in particular with a direct interest in quashing cyber crime, the president of eBay and the CEO of E*Trade, two of the Internet sites that were attacked last week.

Also interestingly, there are some privacy experts in on the meetings, to help protect the interests of Americans, their privacy interests.

And a mysterious hacker named "Mudge." We don't know much about him, only that he helps expose vulnerabilities in companies' computer systems. And he testified in 1998 before the U.S. Congress that he had the ability to bring down the entire Internet in just a half an hour.

So a very diverse group.

MESERVE: Kathleen Koch, at the White House, thank you.

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