Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wire: Obama Pushes to Take Cybersecurity from DHS

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2009 -- Forthcoming legislation would wrest cybersecurity responsibilities from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and transfer them to the White House, a proposed move that likely will draw objections from industry groups, reported the technology news service CNET Friday.

CNET News obtained a summary of a proposal from Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) that would create an Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, part of the Executive Office of the President. That office would receive the power to disconnect, if it believes they're at risk of a cyberattack, "critical" computer networks from the Internet.

From the CNET News article:
"I regard this as a profoundly and deeply troubling problem to which we are not paying much attention," Rockefeller said a hearing this week, referring to cybersecurity.

Giving the White House cybersecurity responsibility was one of the top recommendations of a commission that produced a report last year to advise President Obama on cybersecurity issues. However, the Homeland Security Department, which currently has jurisdiction over cybersecurity, has insisted the reshuffling of duties is not needed.

Given the enormity of cybersecurity threats, the responsibility is a natural fit for the White House, said James Lewis, a director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which issued last year's commission report.

"The Obama administration has an adviser on energy and climate change, and that's good and important," Lewis said, "but we're still in the mode that cyber is less important."

While the bill is still in draft form and thereby subject to change, it would put the White House National Cybersecurity Advisor in charge of coordinating cyber efforts within the intelligence community and within civilian agencies, as well as coordinating the public sector's cooperation with the private sector. The adviser would have the authority to disconnect from the Internet any federal infrastructure networks--or other networks deemed to be "critical"--if found to be at risk of a cyberattack.

The private sector will certainly speak out if this provision is included in the final draft of the bill, a member of the technology industry who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

"You can be assured that if that idea is put into legislation we would certainly have views on it," he said. "It's not trivial."
In a related White House development regarding cybersecurity and technology, on March 13, news outlets reported that an employee of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and a private contractor were charged with corruption after an FBI raid at the former office of one of President Obama's appointees, Vivek Kundra.

Kundra was placed on leave from his White House job as Chief Information Officer, but was quietly reinstated on March 17.

A check of Maryland’s on-line database of criminal records revealed that Kundra had once been arrested and convicted of misdemeanor theft on July 31, 1997.

Asked if Mr. Kundra had revealed the arrest during the White House vetting process, officials there said they had no comment.

(Report from commercial news sources.)

Source: A bill to shift cybersecurity to White House

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