Monday, November 03, 2008

Nationalizing Critical Technologies

Washington Post | In two recent speeches that have attracted little notice, Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence, has called for a radical new relationship between government and the private sector to counter what he called the "malicious activity in cyberspace [that] is a growing threat to everyone."

One approach would have the government take equity stakes in companies developing technical products, in effect expanding the practice of In-Q-Tel, the CIA entity that invests in companies.

Another proposal is to provide the same protective capabilities applied to government Web sites, ending in .gov and .mil, to the private industry's sites, ending in .com, which Kerr said have close to 98 percent of the nation's most important information.

He also suggested that the government ask insurers whether they cover "a failure to protect intellectual capital." That way, Kerr said, the insurers, through their premiums, "provide an incentive for companies, in fact, to pay attention to protecting their intellectual property."

In the past, Kerr said, when the director of central intelligence or the FBI chief faced similar problems, they would meet privately with leaders of companies involved in new technologies, seeking cooperation and perhaps access to their products. "What's the modern equivalent of what used to be done?" Kerr asked.

"We have a responsibility . . . to help those companies that we take an equity stake in or those that are just out there in the U.S. economy, to protect the most valuable assets they have, their ideas and the people who create them," he said.