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Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton fretted about cyber-security during a US Coast Guard Academy commencement speech which he delivered in Connecticut today.

"This is a highly appropriate place to give what is, for me, a very nostalgic address. It is the last speech I will ever give as President to a graduating class of one of our military service academies," he said in his most polished tones of affected sincerity.

He then launched in to the business of promoting his pet concerns: applauding the global economy, coddling China and praising its "working for human rights and political freedoms," and condemning the scourge of international terrorism, on which altar, naturally, anonymity and privacy in a wired world will have to be sacrificed.

"I have requested now some $9 billion for counter-terrorism funding in the 2001 budget. That's 40 percent more than three years ago," the President boasted, and then solicited support to add $300 million on top of it.

"To protect America from cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism, we have developed a national plan for cyber-security, with both public and private sector brains putting it together. We're asking for increased funding to implement this plan to protect our vital networks. That's something else I hope you will support."

The extra money is earmarked for cyber-security initiatives involving Internet monitoring and forensic data handling, primarily by the FBI.

"Today and for the foreseeable tomorrows we and especially you will face a fateful struggle between forces of integration and harmony and the forces of disintegration and chaos," Clinton told the cadets.

"Technology can be a servant of either side, or, ironically, both," he warned.

The President cited the Love Bug e-mail worm as an example of the new and horrifying threats to American national security looming on the horizon.

"Today, critical systems like power structures, nuclear plants, air traffic control, computer networks, they're all connected and run by computers."

"Two years ago, we had an amazing experience in America and around the world - we saw that a single, failed electronics link with one satellite [could] disable pagers, ATMs, credit card systems, and TV and radio networks all over the world. That was an accident. The Love Bug was not an accident."

Heaven's no. It was a dastardly assault on the very underpinnings of decent civilisation. Imagine the damages: it caused e-commerce sites to slow; it forced sysadmins to wake up and filter malicious attachments; it even compelled Micro$oft to take time out from its heavy public relations schedule to fix its crummy e-mail client. Why, it was a veritable electronic Pearl Harbour. ®

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