Tuesday, February 10, 2009
President Obama yesterday ordered a 60-day review of the nation's cybersecurity to examine how federal agencies use technology to protect secrets and data.
Former Bush administration aide Melissa Hathaway will head the effort to examine all the government plans, programs and activities underway to manage large amounts of data -- including passport applications, tax records, personal tax returns and national security documents. A failure or attack on that infrastructure could harm the country by, for example, shutting down the nation's airlines or shutting down the stock market.
"The national security and economic health of the United States depend on the security, stability and integrity of our nation's cyberspace, both in the public and private sectors," said John Brennan, Obama's top adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security. "The president is confident that we can protect our nation's critical cyber-infrastructure while at the same time adhering to the rule of law and safeguarding privacy rights and civil liberties."
Obama -- as a candidate -- was critical of President George W. Bush's efforts on protecting this information. He compared such threats to nuclear or biological attacks on the country and pledged a cybersecurity adviser who would report directly to him.
A senior administration official said the president remains committed to cybersecurity, but the official could not say whether the cybersecurity adviser would be a permanent position after the 60-day review. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Hathaway will carry the title of acting senior director for cyberspace in both the national security and homeland security councils. She led Bush's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which cost the government about $6 billion this budget year and has a reputation as a leading expert on cybersecurity issues.