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Sen. Tom Carper

Langevin Makes the Case for Establishment of White House Cyber Security Director

in Cybersecurity by

 [updated July 20, 2011, 6:10 pm EDT] Correction: Broadbandbreakfast.com incorrectly reported that the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011 does not contain a provision for a Director of the proposed Office of Cyberspace Policy.

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2011 – Despite bipartisan agreement over the need for effective cyber security legislation, members remain divided over authority and enforcement specifics.

In a letter to the Editor in the Saturday edition of the Washington Post, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) critiqued another article published early July in which Sens. Joe Liebermann (ID-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) recommended proposed legislation that would grant the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statutory authority to work with industry to identify and evaluate critical cyber infrastructure and establish best practices between government and the private sector in order to improve security.

“The alternative could be a digital Pearl Harbor — and another day of infamy,” stated the senators.

Rep. Langevin, however, feels avoiding a “digital Pearl Harbor” with a cyber security gold-standard might be missing the mark, Langevin spokesman Jonathon Dworkin told BroadbandBreakfast.com on Saturday.

“We are supportive of their overall efforts, but [the senators] – and the White House – continue to leave out one of the core recommendations of the CSIS Commission, which is a strong White House Director that has the necessary authority to lead and coordinate the kind of comprehensive strategy we need,” said Dworkin.

The increasing dependence upon networked systems, and the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure systems, makes fears of a major assault by a cunning adversary with digital weaponry no longer sound like something out of the show “24.” The string of publicized cyber intrusions and data breaches against major U.S. companies and government agencies make these fears ever more real.

The lack of strong diplomatic and military components to the senators’ plan was Langevin’s main concern.

“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of threats posed by other nations and terrorist organizations,” said Langevin – who founded the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus – in his letter.

“The senators’ plan would give primary responsibility for our nation’s cyber-strategy to the Department of Homeland Security. However, while Homeland Security is doing impressive work domestically, our international effort requires a whole-of-government approach.”

While the Lieberman, Collins and Carper’s plan advocates giving more authority to DHS, Langevin is a believer in of the creation of a new position Executive Branch position that would coordinate cyber security efforts across government.

“The bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies’ cybersecurity commission, which I co-chaired,” said Langevin, “emphasized the need for a White House cybersecurity director, confirmed by the Senate, who would have budgetary and policy authority across government to require that agencies apply sufficient resources to protect themselves online.”

Despite some confusion in Rep. Langevin’s office as to the content of the bill, all parties seem in agreement: Section 102 of the Senate bill does, in fact, contain a provision for a White House Office of Cyberspace Policy Director, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

“Our legislation – the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act – would establish an office of cyberspace policy at the White House, headed by a Senate-confirmed Director, to coordinate cyber security efforts across the federal government,” said the senators through a joint release Wednesday afternoon. “The Director would ‘oversee, coordinate, and integrate all policies and activities of the federal government across all instruments of national power relating to ensuring the security and resiliency of cyberspace, including … diplomatic, economic, military, intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement policies and activities within and among federal agencies,’ very similar to what Congressman Langevin calls for. We appreciate Congressman Langevin’s commitment to cyber security and agree with him that it is imperative Congress pass comprehensive cyber security legislation.”

Langevin, announced the establishment of the Rhode Island Cyber Disruption Team last Monday, and was in attendance during the Pentagon’s cyber strategy announcement on Thursday.

[July 20, 2011, 6:37 pm EDT] Update: Jonathon Dworkin, Communications Director for Rep. Langevin issued a statement concerning his previous correspondence in regards to the Senate bill: “My email was misleading because the Senators’ bill, unlike the White House proposal, does have a Senate-confirmed White House position.  While there are differences in our respective proposals, we continue to be supportive of what [the Senators] are doing and look forward to continuing to work together to most effectively strengthen our cybersecurity.”

‘Kill Switch’ Legislation Faces Uphill Battle in Light of Egypt Crisis

in Congress/Cybersecurity by

Senate lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow the President  to declare a national cyber emergency and give him the power to use an internet “kill switch” which could shut down internet access nationally.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) originally introduced the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, which would have authorized the forming of an Office of Cyberspace Policy. This new office would have been given the responsibility of putting into place plans to protect the nation’s infrastructure from cyber-attacks.  The 2010 bill died when Congress failed to act on it; however, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) reintroduced the bill to the new Congress last week under the title Cyber Security and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2011.

Those who oppose the legislation feel the bill hinders the neutrality of the internet, and could possible pose a threat to free speech. The most controversial element of the bill is the lack of specificity of the powers given to the president during a “national cyber emergency.”

A summary of the bill located on the Library of Congress web site specifies the President “notify the owners and operators of the infrastructure of the nature of the emergency, consistent with the protection of intelligence sources and methods.” The cyber emergency could last up to 30 days and be extended 30 days if the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) Director and the President ‘ affirms that such measure or action remains necessary to address the continuing emergency.”

Detractors also point to actions that recently took place in Egypt, during which the Egyptian government shut down the nations internet in an attempt to control political unrest.

“The bill authorizes the NCCC, in an emergency declared by the President, to take unspecified emergency actions to preserve the reliable operation of particular covered critical infrastructure,” said the American Civil Liberties Union and twenty four other groups in a recent letter to congress. “The government can compel companies that own or operate critical infrastructure systems to take those undefined actions for 30‐day periods that may be renewed indefinitely. While the bill makes it clear that it does not authorize electronic surveillance beyond that authorized in current law, we are concerned that the emergency actions that could be compelled could include shutting down or limiting Internet communications that might be carried over covered critical infrastructure systems.”

The cosponsors of the bill say that this was not their intent as the bill was introduced before the unrest in Egypt.

“Some have suggested that our legislation would empower the president to deny U.S. citizens access to the Internet,” said the statement from Sen. Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Senator Tom Carper, (D-DE). “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

They said, however, that they’ll make sure their forthcoming legislation will contain contains language prohibiting the president from doing what occurred in Egypt.

Cybersecurity Legislation Gains Traction

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/Transparency by

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 – House Intelligence Subcommittee Chairwoman Jane Harman, D-Calif., announced the consideration of new cybersecurity legislation introduced in the Senate last Wednesday.

The bill, S. 3480, sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Tom Carper, D-Del., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act.”

“I know that cyberspace is viewed by bad actors as the soft underbelly of our nation. In fact most – if not all – of our critical infrastructure is dependent upon the security and resiliency of America’s information infrastructure,” said Carper.

Collins added, “We cannot dither on what has become a significant national security issue. Every day, America’s cyberspace is under increasing assault. We must act now to develop a proactive strategy for protection and response, ahead of a damaging attack to our federal civilian systems or our most critical infrastructure systems.”

The proposed bill would have several effects on internet-related security policy. According to Carper’s office, the bill would:

o   Create a White House Office of Cyberspace Policy to lead all federal cybersecurity efforts. The office would be led by a Senate-confirmed director accountable to Congress and the public.

o   Create a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications within the Department of Homeland Security to defend the dot-gov networks and oversee the defenses of our most critical infrastructure.

o   Set up a collaborative process between the government and the private sector to meet a baseline set of security requirements that DHS would enforce for the nation’s most critical infrastructure.

o   Require the federal government to develop and implement a strategy to ensure that almost $80 billion of the information technology products and services it purchases each year are secure and don’t provide adversaries with a backdoor into our networks.

o   Provide the president with clear authority to direct short-term emergency measures for a select group of critical infrastructure owners and operators in order to preserve their networks and protect the American people in the event of a catastrophic cyber attack that could seriously jeopardize public safety or have disastrous effects on our economy or national security.

o   Reform the way federal cybersecurity personnel are recruited, hired and trained to ensure that the government has the talent.

The Office of Cyberspace Policy would have expansive powers under this bill. Among these are the ability to “develop…a national strategy to increase the security and resiliency of cyberspace, that includes goals and objectives relating to computer network operations…information assurance, protection of critical infrastructure and key resources, research and development priorities, law enforcement, diplomacy, homeland security and military and intelligence activities.” The Director of the Office would also receive classified intelligence information pursuant to certain restrictions under the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

Section 247 details precise guidelines for how the government may choose to aid the private sector in developing programs related to private security. The government is tasked with “regularly assess[ing] and evaluat[ing] cybersecurity standards and guidelines issued by private sector organizations, recognized international and domestic standards setting organizations, and federal agencies.”

The measure could see some friction.

A controversial element of the bill is the so-called “kill switch” language: “The owner or operator of covered critical infrastructure shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed by the director under this section during the pendency of any [emergency] declaration by the president.”

The term “critical infrastructure” is defined in the bill as referring to section 1016(e) of the Patriot Act, which defines “critical infrastructure” as “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Opponents of the bill such as Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com allege that the kill-switch language could include regular internet services like search engines, and that this expansiveness could allow the president to shut down the internet in a time of crisis.

A similar bill is sponsored in the House by Harman and Intelligence Subcommittee ranking member Peter King, R-N.Y.

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