U.S. Intelligence Misread Other Nations' Y2K Vulnerability?

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David Sunfellow's NHNE Y2K posted this Reuters story tonight. This calls for some penetrating analysis. These are extraordinary admissions. If the intelligence community can be this far off-base in understanding the way other nations operate, then this does not bode well at all. But something smells fishy here. Was the military badly misinformed about the international situation? Was the state department completely wrong in their assessments? Were they in dialogue with Koskenin? What was the source of their misinformation? How will they ever regain credibility? There's a story here, but I don't know how to dig it out. Any suggestions? -------

SPIES' Y2K VIEWS POSSIBLY FLAWED: PENTAGON Tuesday January 4, 9:48 pm Eastern Time By Jim Wolf


WASHINGTON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies may have overstated the Year 2000 computer threat to China, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, India, Indonesia and others because they extrapolated from the U.S. case, the Pentagon's number two official said on Tuesday.

"In some cases, we may have misestimated the degree to which these countries were dependent upon computer-controlled infrastructure," Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre told a briefing on the "remarkably successful" century date change for the Pentagon's 2,101 most important systems.

He said the countries mentioned by U.S. intelligence as particularly vulnerable "may have had much more of a day-to-day, practical manual work-arounds (ability) than we're used to."

"If we had a failing, it may be that we extrapolated to the rest of the world the kind of business practices that we have developed here in the United States," he said.

Warnings from U.S. intelligence added a sense of urgency to a worldwide drive to fix computers so they would correctly read "00" as 2000, not 1900, and continue humming.

Hamre said the campaign paid off with the arrival of a surprisingly glitch-free 2000, despite what had been U.S. intelligence predictions of "humanitarian crises" in some areas.


He said some unnamed countries had actually only resorted "palliatives that aren't long-term solutions but got them through the transition period."

For instance, he said, some had rolled back computers' internal clocks to 1972 because the days of the weeks match those of 2000 and both years are leap years.

Hamre, who oversees the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and other Pentagon spy arms, said the intelligence warnings on Y2K were an "honest" view of in-house fears "that there were going to be more significant problems than there were."

"I think we would have missed an opportunity to help avoid the problem" had the United States not done so much to promote international awareness, he added.

The CIA and companion U.S. intelligence outfits named China, Russia, Ukraine, unspecified other East European countries, Egypt, India and Indonesia as among those "particularly vulnerable" to Y2K.

"Some countries -- such as Russia -- are likely to be so poorly prepared that widespread telecommunications failures likely will occur," the top U.S. intelligence officer for science and technology, Lawrence Gershwin, told the special Senate Y2K committee Oct. 13.

"Some foreign governments and businesses will look to the United States and its better-prepared infrastructure to overcome Y2K problems abroad," he said.

Gershwin said the U.S. intelligence community expected that Y2K would result in "calls on the U.S. military to intervene in humanitarian crises."

Such crises could arise from prolonged power and heat outages, breakdowns in urban water supplies, food shortages, the rundown of medical services and "environmental disasters resulting from failures in safety controls," he said.


CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the U.S. intelligence warnings deserved credit for helping cause some countries "to take the Y2K problem a lot more seriously" and "deal with it effectively.'"

On another matter, Hamre denied the Pentagon lied about the Y2K status of its systems after a key U.S. spy satellite hookup was hobbled by a Y2K glitch.

"I mean, we were at a global alert for potential terrorist activity around the world," he said, referring to fears that guerrillas might strike on or about New Year's Day.

He said he would have been reluctant to disclose the hitch until it was fixed for fear of telling "the bad guys of the world that we had a potential -- you know -- an anomaly at the time."

The glitch, the most significant attributed to Y2K by the Pentagon, crippled a ground station that processes images beamed from the sharpest U.S. eyes in the sky.

He said the failure had been disclosed in the interest of maintaining maximum transparency in government operations during the 2000 rollover.

"This is the first time we have ever made a report on one of these systems," he said. "In the full commitment we made to transparency for the year 2000, we felt that we should do that."

-- Michael Brownlee (Tucson) (michael@visibiliti.com), January 04, 2000


Isn't it a matter of record that you can get more accurate predictions from reading any newspaper you care to mention, than from buying the gaggingly expensive CIA world report?

These are people who can't even recognise a Chinese embassy from a map with a big building on it marked "CHINESE EMBASSY! DO NOT BOMB!" I know, not particularly funny, but based in truth.

-- Servant (public_service@yahoo.com), January 05, 2000.

"He said some unnamed countries had actually only resorted "palliatives that aren't long-term solutions but got them through the transition period." For instance, he said, some had rolled back computers' internal clocks to 1972 because the days of the weeks match those of 2000 and both years are leap years."

What does this mean technically? Does anybody know when the problem arises again for them?

-- Jeanette Thomas (ou_2000@berkshire.net), January 05, 2000.

I have to ask, what is the point in speculating on anything Hamre has to say? For that matter, anything the Federal govt has to say? We were warned about a 3-day storm - not even a breath of wind; we were warned about infrastructure failure "over there" - no reports of any significant problems.

They have proven that they have no credibility on this issue.

The only logical thread of thought, at this point, is that the need for Y2k remediation was a scam. I'm not suggesting that the picture won't change in the future, but with every passing day without problems, the scam scenario becomes more credible.

I'll keep paying attention for a while, but at some point, if things keep proceeding as they are, we'll have to fess up to being duped and move on to the next phase - finding out who cares about being scammed. That won't have the allure of end-of-the-world possibilities, but will be interesting nonetheless.

-- david moore (davidrmoore01@msn.com), January 05, 2000.

As with anything, predictions, whether made by me, the CIA, the Washington Post, or you, are predictions based on information you have at the time. And they are usually the best that can be made with the information you have. Almost everyone who made Y2K guesses and predictions noted that the database of real facts was insufficient to know what will happen. Why are we getting bent out of shape over this? The only thing we know at this point is that the public infrastructure was as robust and remediated as we had hoped, not that Y2K problems are completely solved. Each day brings more glitch reports. And each week throughout this year and next will (my guess) bring more.

People and organizations did the best they could with the information available to them. No one, not even our government (8:)), knows it all. Especially when it comes to knowing all about what software is in the computers and microprocessors of other countries. I don't know of one organization that claims to know that about its own systems. The concern seemed to be for the safety of people,for which I thank them and everyone who worked and continue to work this problem. If your mission is to make sure people are as safe as possible, then you always want to err on the conservative side. It is better to plan to fail than fail to plan.

-- Dave Hall (dhall@enteract.com), January 05, 2000.

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