By Jason Miller
February 18, 2008
When President Bush issued a classified cybersecurity directive early
last month, he reversed 21 years of policy that had prevented the
Defense Department and the National Security Agency from having
oversight of civilian agency networks.
Some opponents of the directive, which include several former Office of
Management and Budget officials, say that National Security Presidential
Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 authorizing
intelligence monitoring of all federal agency network will create a new
set of information technology security problems and raise privacy and
civil liberties concerns that had been avoided until now.
To solve the security problem, they want to use intelligence monitoring?
asked Glenn Schlarman, a former OMB official in charge of security
policy who is now a consultant. DOD has not done a great job of
defending its own networks, Schlarman said, adding that there are
starkly different needs and purposes for intelligence gathering and
Schlarman is one of several former OMB officials who disapprove of parts
of the presidents classified directive. They said it violates the
Computer Security Act of 1987, the Federal Information Security
Management Act of 2002 and the Privacy Act of 1974. Until now, Schlarman
and others had fought and won a recurring battle to prevent DOD and NSA
from having a role in managing civilian agency networks.
Bruce McConnell, who was at OMB for 15 years and was chief of the
information policy and technology branch for many years, testified
before Congress last week that the classified directive could have a
potentially chilling effect on the free flow of information between
government and citizens.
It is impossible for DOD to balance the needs of security and
monitoring, McConnell told House lawmakers last week.
McConnell, who is president at Government Futures, a consulting company,
said the directive has garnered a lot support because of repeated
attacks on federal networks.
Asked about the concerns expressed by former OMB officials, Karen Evans,
OMBs administrator for e-government and IT, said the new policy has been
fully vetted, and it is clear what everyones roles and responsibilities
Evans said she could not comment further because of the classified
nature of the directive.
Several critics say such secrecy is one of their concerns. People have
consistently concluded that this kind of secrecy slows down the
responsiveness and effectiveness of responding to network security
problems, said Jim Dempsey, the Center for Democracy and Technologys
policy director. That is why the Computer Emergency Readiness Team
publishes vulnerabilities and their fixes as quickly as possible.
DOD and NSA have been trying to obtain rights to monitor federal
computer networks since 1984, when John Poindexter, then the National
Security Advisor, issued a directive. Each time, OMB and lawmakers
stopped or staved off those attempts.
Either no one raised these concerns, or they finally got into a
situation where they went above the OMB staff level and to the White
House staff and convinced them it was the right thing to do, Schlarman
Dempsey said he believes this latest effort to change agency network
oversight originated with Mike McConnell, director of national
intelligence. For McConnell, this is the latest chapter in a 20-year
effort, he said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence
referred all questions about the new cyberdirective to the Homeland
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