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Janet Reno proposes online police squad

FIDNET by another name, we reckon

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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 has occurred. 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 per cent 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 public.

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. ®

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