Rich Cooper

Apr 2, 2009

Building off of many of the recommendations of the recently issued CSIS study, Sens. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Snowe (R-ME) are preparing to introduce legislation to establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Adviser which would report directly to the President.

As reported in today’s Washington Post, NextGov and other media outlets, the forthcoming Rockefeller-Snowe bill has been drafted with input and guidance from the new Administration and looks to fulfill then-candidate Obama’s pledge to have a Cyber Czar in the White House to help oversee this tremendously critical infrastructure.

With Melissa Hathaway’s Cyber-Review approaching its 60-day deadline for completion, it would appear that her report, and the soon-to-be introduced legislation, will link up at some point to move this train forward much, much faster.

The entire cyber issue has multiple “wild-cards” given the complete and total interdependency of cyber to all of our critical infrastructures, our not-so-critical infrastructures and our everyday way of life.  Privacy, civil liberties, data security and accessibility and more are all involved and none of those concerns are clear-cut or straight-forward.

While neither the introduction of this legislation nor the new Administration’s desire to have a Cyber Czar are a surprise, the words stated in the various reports pointing to the “super powers” of this new position/federal office “would empower the government to set and enforce security standards for private industry for the first time” (Washington Post – 4/2/09).

Those are eye-opening, extraordinary powers that we’ve never entrusted to anyone in government before.  The mere mentions of such powers in conversation or prospective legislation are enough to give anyone pause and concern, regardless of their political stripes.  

What we do know after this week is this Administration is fully prepared and willing to execute such authorities in firing a corporate CEO and is also fully prepared and willing to do so again per the recent comments of Treasury Secretary Geithner in a CBS News interview.

It’s obvious that change has come to lots of things, but before we change everything too quickly, we need to have a serious and informed discussion about the powers we are about to allow the Administration to implement and the safeguards that need to be put in place alongside of them .

Let the debate begin…


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