Rep. Thompson presses DHS for information on cyber initiative

Rep. Thompson presses DHS for information on cyber initiative
Rep. Thompson presses DHS for information on cyber initiative

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By Jason Miller
October 24, 2007

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is frustrated by the lack of response 
from the Homeland Security Department and the Office of the Director for 
National Intelligence about a reportedly new cybersecurity program the 
National Security Agency is developing.

Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked DHS 
Secretary Michael Chertoff for more information on a cyber initiative 
that the Baltimore Sun first reported in September.

=E2=80=9COn at least four separate occasions, my staff has tried to schedule 
briefings from the department on this effort,=E2=80=9D Thompson said in a letter 
to Chertoff. =E2=80=9CEach time, the department refused to do so.=E2=80=9D

Greg Garcia, DHS=E2=80=99 assistant secretary for cybersecurity and 
communications, also refused to talk about the initiative at an Oct. 17 
hearing on securing the electrical grid, Thompson added.

=E2=80=9CThis week, I learned that the so-called =E2=80=98Cyber-Initiative=E2=80=99 may be 
unveiled by the president as early as Nov. 1,=E2=80=9D he said. =E2=80=9CI certainly 
hope that the department does not plan to go forward with this program 
without fully briefing the committee as well as the House Appropriations 

The Sun=E2=80=99s article states that DHS and NSA are developing a plan to 
monitor critical infrastructure networks to prevent unauthorized 
intrusions, and the effort includes more than 2,000 people from both 

Laura Keehner, a DHS spokeswoman, said the department has met with the 
committee more than six times in the past year on cybersecurity and 
related issues and is unclear why Thompson is saying they have refused 
to meet.

=E2=80=9CWe have continually kept members of Congress involved and will continue 
to do so,=E2=80=9D she said. =E2=80=9CWe will respond to his letter in a timely 

Keehner added that DHS and the government will continue to increase 
federal efforts to improve cybersecurity.

=E2=80=9CWe will continue to strengthen our critical infrastructure and how 
systems are interconnected,=E2=80=9D she said. =E2=80=9CWe will continue to look at 
vulnerabilities and try to fix them.=E2=80=9D

She could not comment on whether the NSA program existed or not, nor if 
there would be any forthcoming announcement.

An e-mail request that asked for a statement from NSA was not 
immediately answered.

Thompson is not happy with DHS' response to his inquiries. He is 
concerned that the cyber initiative brings up constitutional and privacy 
issues, such as whether private and public networks would be covered and 
to what extent the intelligence community would be involved in 
monitoring privately-owned critical infrastructure.

Thompson also said he and others have long asked for the Bush 
administration to pay more attention to cyberthreats, and through the 
cyber initiative =E2=80=9Cthe centralization of power raises significant 
questions that must be answered before any major overhaul is initiated.=E2=80=9D

During the hearing, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) said cyberthreats against 
public and private networks are increasing, and the administration has 
yet to recognize and prioritize these potential risks.

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