The bombing at the Boston Marathon, once again, has placed violent terrorism against the United States on the front burner. Not that we needed it, but this grotesque action reminded many of such heinous acts as 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing and the first attack on the World Trade Center.
In the aftermath of this attack, law enforcement officials continue to pursue ever-widening leads on terror cells and plots as our elected leaders argue about what actions should be taken by government to prevent future attacks.
Granted, most of those discussions are more style than substance because they nearly always assiduously avoid the overarching truth that it is impossible to stop all terrorism while maintaining a free society.
Don't read that wrong. We want our officials to diligently explore every reasonable possibility and we applaud them for doing so. It is just that we also realize there are practical limits as to what government in a free society can do to thwart a terrorist bent on violence.
This most recent attack naturally has refocused the nation's collective attention on violent acts, but violence is not the only way to create havoc or mass panic in this country.
Frankly, we fear serious cyberattacks every bit as much as violent ones. Such attacks could not only be aimed at our national security systems, but also at our commerce and banking systems with the goal of wreaking financial chaos. On Tuesday we saw the impact that a simple hacked Twitter account could have on the stock market; imagine the turmoil that could be caused by a concerted effort.
Sound like a plot in a best-selling suspense novel? Perhaps. But so did the notion of a choreographed hijacking of commercial airplanes and crashing them into buildings -- until it happened.
Last week the House of Representatives passed a new cybersecurity bill. It is by no means a perfect bill, but at least it is a starting point on the issue -- and we believe that the nation needs a starting point.
The report accompanying the bill carried some disquieting statements: "A number of advanced nation-state actors are actively engaged in a series of wide-ranging, aggressive efforts to penetrate American computer systems and networks."
It also warns that their targets went far beyond national secrets and extended into the corporate world where computer systems are much easier to attack.
No less authority than former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed such a view last year.
The situation calls for Congress to fashion legislation that either mandates or induces corporations and government to cooperate on computer security.
No, we are not talking Big Brother here. Not at all. We are talking about a cooperation similar to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which just passed the House. We hope that Senate Democrats and Republicans will craft some sophisticated and thoughtful language to better protect privacy while maintaining efficacy.
We are talking about proactively protecting our country from an almost-certain harmful cyberattack. Surely, all stakeholders are reasonable enough to see the necessity in doing that.