MAR 23, 2010
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Every year, thousands of foreign agents enter the U.S. to steal and destroy valuable national assets. They raid the Pentagon, the CIA, and other government agencies and lift sensitive classified information. They attack American corporations and take or destroy hundreds of millions of dollars (and likely much more) worth of data or intellectual property. They contact CEOs and credibly threaten to destroy their businesses unless the CEOs meet their extortionate demands. And the agents plant devices inside government and corporate headquarters, and in critical infrastructure systems like electrical grids and power plants, that allow them to monitor activities in these places. These devices may also have destructive capabilities that can be triggered years later if the foreign agents decide that doing so would be politically or militarily useful, or profitable.
If this were happening before our eyes, the government would declare a national emergency. But it is happening out of public sight, on computers and computer networks. And so most people are not very alarmed. The cyber threat is not, however, invisible to the government. And the government is very alarmed. As he was leaving office in January, Bush administration Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell placed two items at the top of his list of national security worries: Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and a cyber attack on critical government and private computer networks. “A coordinated attack from a remote location by a small group on our electric grid, transportation network and banking system,” said McConnell a few months later, “could create damage as potentially great as a nuclear weapon over time.” President Obama, not usually prone to overstatement, seems to agree. “This cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation,” he declared in May. “From now on,” the President pledged, “our digital infrastructure – the networks and computers we depend on every day – will be treated as a strategic national asset” and the protection of this infrastructure “will be a national security priority.”
In his lecture, Jack Goldsmith will describe the cyber threat, explain why it is so serious, and argue that it requires us to rethink many core assumptions about crime, war, constitutional law, and international law and politics.
Jack Landman Goldsmith
Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law
Harvard Law School
Jack Goldsmith is Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law at Harvard University. He is the author, most recently, of The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside The Bush Administration (W.W. Norton 2007), as well as of other books and articles on many topics related to terrorism, national security, international law, conflicts of law, and internet law. Before coming to Harvard, Goldsmith served as Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, from October 2003 through July 2004, and Special Counsel to the General Counsel to the Department of Defense from September 2002 through June 2003. Goldsmith taught at the University of Chicago Law School from 1997-2002, and at the University of Virginia Law School from 1994-1997. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, a B.A. and M.A. from Oxford University, and a B.A. from Washington & Lee University. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Court of Appeals Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, and Judge George Aldrich on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.