The U.S. government should court the best computer hackers worldwide rather than seek to punish them, a leading military thinker and former adviser to Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says.

John Arquilla wants to use hackers’ combined brilliance to disrupt al-Qaida’s digital operations, he says. But it’s a sure bet those skills would also be put to work in the ongoing effort to suppress dissent in the streets and online, making America’s military-technology-industrial complex a more resilient and fearsome beast than it already is.

If, as Arquilla suggests, most hackers are apolitical, the government would probably have no trouble extracting their allegiance with offers of high pay and the social status that comes with being branded an American hero.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

The Guardian:

He had established contact with several in the US – “they are like shy woodland animals” – and even brought one to meet the CEO of a major company to alert him to his information system’s vulnerabilities. The executive, scornful at first, was stunned when the hacker broke into the system with a handheld device in just a few minutes. “All hell broke loose,” said Arquilla, who declined to identify the company.

The Pentagon and other security agencies must exploit that sort of ability, he said. “This is huge human capital. They are the rangers of the cyber sphere. Most of them are drawn to it for its beauty and complexity.” Few had overt political agendas, but they could be turned into patriots. “Most of the hackers I have known would love to destroy al-Qaida.”

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