President Orders U.S. Cybersecurity System Review

Feb 12, 2009 9:54 AM

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President Barack Obama recently ordered a 60-day review of the nation's cybersecurity system to examine how federal agencies use technology to protect secrets and data.

Obama said former Bush administration aide Melissa Hathaway would head the effort to examine all the government plans, programs and activities under way to manage massive amounts of data, passport applications to tax records, personal tax returns to national security documents. A failure or attack on that infrastructure could harm the country by, for example, shutting down the nation's airlines or crashing 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," John Brennan, Obama's top adviser for counterterrorism and Homeland security, told the Associated Press. "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."

Between his election and inauguration, Obama had aides look at the proposal. Some advised him to keep his pledge for an overall overseer, while others advocated it go to DHS.

A senior administration official said the president remains committed to cybersecurity, but the official could not say whether the cyber czar would be a permanent position after the 60-day review. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Hathaway’s review of all government programs to address cybersecurity will include an inventory of what was already being done and recommendations on how it can improve, the official told AP.

The White House also has briefed members of the House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees about the move.

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