Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 13, 2009

Cyber: Seven days in March

Filed under: Cybersecurity,General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 13, 2009

One week ago Rod Beckstrom resigned as Director of the National Cybersecurity Center protesting what he claimed is NSA heavy-handedness in cybersecurity strategy and operations.  Monday Beckstrom explained to  Forbes that there is a fundamental mis-match between NSA’s mission focus and what is needed to prevent and mitigate cyber threats. “In intelligence environments like the NSA, you seek out and gather information, and then you classify it,” Beckstrom told the magazine. “It’s the opposite of collaboration.”

Beckstrom’s resignation letter was sent about the same time that  the HLSwatch host was suffering a denial of service attack that kept us from making updates for about 12 hours and kept comments offline for three days.  Our tech guy blames NSA too.

Some claim DHS doesn’t have the competence (or clout) to do cybersecurity anyway. On Tuesday Amit Yoran, a predecessor of Beckstrom’s told a House panel that the department, “has repeatedly failed to either attract or retain the leadership and technical acumen required to successfully lead in the cybermission space.”  Was that a self-slam?

The GAO seemed to agree with Yoran and I will eventually link you to the report released Tuesday entitled National Cybersecurity Strategy: Key Improvements NeededBut early this Friday morning several GAO links are dead.  The GAO list of “most recent” reports and testimony starts in August 2008 and goes back in time.  Was someone hacked last night?  (Saturday update: The GAO website has been restored to its  typical orderly self. Read more on the House hearing in a Computerworld story.)

Since DHS can’t and NSA shouldn’t one witness told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology that the White House needs to take a stronger role in cybersecurity. “If I have access to the president and control over budgets, I will get agencies to do whatever I want,” said Jim Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We have to put that [authority] at the White House.”  (More from nextgov.)  Yeah. Besides there’s nothing else claiming the West Wing’s attention.

On Wednesday at 1:58PM Eastern I received a DHS email announcing that Phil Reitinger was being named  Director of the National Cybersecurity Center (Beckstrom’s job).  Oops.  Fifteen minutes later the correction arrived. Reitinger is being named Deputy Undersecretary in the National Protections Program Directorate (NPPD).  “In this role, Reitinger will be charged with protecting the U.S. government’s computing systems from domestic and foreign threats.”

Damn send buttons.  But the error probably tells us what the Department’s media team was really thinking about and trying to deal with.

Yesterday my Email server was almost taken down by a tsunami of forwards all with copies of the new CRS report entitled, Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative: Legal Authorities and Policy Considerations.  The Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Project distributed this study of the classified CNCI program. 

Last year that bastion of leftist succor for our enemies, the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained that  super-secret treatment of the CNCI, “…preclude(s) public education, awareness, and debate about the policy and legal issues, real or imagined, that the initiative poses in the areas of privacy and civil liberties. Without such debate and awareness in such important and sensitive areas, it is likely that the initiative will make slow or modest progress.”

Last night and this morning we are all reading about Vivek Kundra’s troubles as White House CIO.  Free-lance snooping by some of Kundra’s  former subordinates is alleged and there is no suggestion that Kundra is implicated. But for too many Obama appointments the send button seems to be stuck.  Good tech support is so hard to find.

Well… it is Friday the 13th for the second time in two months.

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3 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 13, 2009 @ 10:34 am

It would be an interesting postscript to this post to this post to briefly not that Robert Jamison spent several years in DHS and exactly what he believes he accomplished or did not accomplish in that time frame. I believe he was Senate Confirmed in the Deputy Under Secretary role for NPPD. That position was created after George Foresman left in January 2007 as his position as Under Secretary for Plans and Preparedness was being abolished pursuant to the PKEMA (Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006) which became effective March 1, 2007 and most but not all of his programs, functions, and activities were being joined up again with FEMA. Jamison left on January 16th 2009 so it would be of interest that his thoughts and experience be captured. After all we can always hope that DHS and FEMA become “Learning Organizations.”

As to the OBAMA administrations personnel ops it is clearly already a mini-disaster. I always believed that deep in his heart Bill Clinton never expected to win in 1992 and was setting up for 1996. After all Perot did get 19% of the popular vote. A Bush versus Clinton without Perot might have had a different outcome. At any rate, Clinton’s whole first year was a personnel nighmare for him and his administration. OBAMA after the fall of Lehman certainly knew he might win. But now the Administration has sown complete confusion with multiple White House Czars with uncertain portfolios and even Cabinet Secretaries uncertain as to where these Czars will intervene or what power they will have. The consolidation of White House power and the diminishment of Cabinet power is clearly established. But now confusion, uncertainty and even fear of unknown changes is hampering the Executive Branch. The secretive culture of the National Security Community and its minions, including former CIA personnel not out of formal INTEL roles is devastating to civil government faced with the giant windstorm of economic uncertainty, political leadership uncertainty, and OBAMA agenda uncertainty. WOW! What portents! For example, why is Secretary of DHS down in the weeds literally in NOLA working drainage canal issues? What is the judgement while border with Mexico explodes, DHS technology contracts result in more overuns and undeliverables, and staffing of DHS generally is undermined by politics as opposed to competence. Hey is Friday the 13th and end of next week first 60 days has run. Okay what is the real progress report on HS and EM? It is clear that the civil servants are not trusted as all my info indicates everything at full stop until political appointees get on board at DHS and FEMA and learn their real not make believe portfolios. What about the phrase “Delegate or Die” does the DHS Secretary not understand? Was NATO and Germany really that important in the first 90 days? I know “A fool may ask more questions than a wise man can answer” but this is getting to be worrisome.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 14, 2009 @ 4:19 am

It would be an interesting postscript to this post to this post to briefly not that Robert Jamison spent several years in DHS and exactly what he believes he accomplished or did not accomplish in that time frame. I believe he was Senate Confirmed in the Deputy Under Secretary role for NPPD. That position was created after George Foresman left in January 2007 as his position as Under Secretary for Plans and Preparedness was being abolished pursuant to the PKEMA (Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006) which became effective March 1, 2007 and most but not all of his programs, functions, and activities were being joined up again with FEMA. Jamison left on January 16th 2009 so it would be of interest that his thoughts and experience be captured. After all we can always hope that DHS and FEMA become “Learning Organizations.”

As to the OBAMA administrations personnel ops it is clearly already a mini-disaster. I always believed that deep in his heart Bill Clinton never expected to win in 1992 and was setting up for 1996. After all Perot did get 19% of the popular vote. A Bush versus Clinton without Perot might have had a different outcome. At any rate, Clinton’s whole first year was a personnel nighmare for him and his administration. OBAMA after the fall of Lehman certainly knew he might win. But now the Administration has sown complete confusion with multiple White House Czars with uncertain portfolios and even Cabinet Secretaries uncertain as to where these Czars will intervene or what power they will have. The consolidation of White House power and the diminishment of Cabinet power is clearly established. But now confusion, uncertainty and even fear of unknown changes is hampering the Executive Branch. The secretive culture of the National Security Community and its minions, including former CIA personnel not out of formal INTEL roles is devastating to civil government faced with the giant windstorm of economic uncertainty, political leadership uncertainty, and OBAMA agenda uncertainty. WOW! What portents! For example, why is Secretary of DHS down in the weeds literally in NOLA working drainage canal issues? What is the judgement while border with Mexico explodes, DHS technology contracts result in more overuns and undeliverables, and staffing of DHS generally is undermined by politics as opposed to competence. Hey is Friday the 13th and end of next week first 60 days has run. Okay what is the real progress report on HS and EM? It is clear that the civil servants are not trusted as all my info indicates everything at full stop until political appointees get on board at DHS and FEMA and learn their real not make believe portfolios. What about the phrase “Delegate or Die” does the DHS Secretary not understand? Was NATO and Germany really that important in the first 90 days? I know “A fool may ask more questions than a wise man can answer” but this is getting to be worrisome.
Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

Comment by christopher Tingus

March 14, 2009 @ 10:37 am

We do not have the time to allow those we entrust by vote in their choice to serve the majority interests of the good populace beginning at the Executive level to allow bureaucracy to undermine the best interests of the Republic.

We here on the street thank individuals such as William Cumming, Lee Hamilton and a select few who have devoted themselves to public service, astute, concerned individuals who understand the value of our esteemed society.

We also reach out with sincere appreciation to every man and women whether in our military from high command to the battlefield, to first responders as police officers, firefighters and EMT’s, however those of us here on the street are becoming quite alarmed at the continued non-partisan portrayal across the aisle, the decisions of the new Congress and the same ‘ol, same ‘ol agenda pervaded with perks and arrogant apathy. Turning the cheek to corruption is not a solution. Listening to whistle blowers with deaf ears is a depiction of the erosion of values before us.

Read your history books as you sit on the throne of self-appointed glory. The real question is whether anyone of you can tell (us) what a gallon of milk costs? Today’s family sees credit card companies who are in the business of usury. Bankers intersted in their own bottom line as they peer out from their skyscraper offices or their multi-million homes on Long Island or wherever.

To the beltway boys who are “knighted” as somehow icons as we as not only a nation, but a civilization slip precipitiously into an L-shaped stagflation, economic “Depression” far worse than 1929-’32 with American children already compromised, your promimence and haughty demeanor shows only those that are only truly concerned with your salvation and are indifferent to the good and wonderful people who you seek to impoverish.

Thank God that the NSA is vigilant, the US military, men and women we truly appreciate and respect, taunted by the Chinese Navy lately – and by the way the least we have to worry about as the Chinese are supporting our economy and unfortunately a dollar which will become devalued and no longer the benchmark for international trade and currency, but rather the Euro and the Yuan as a result of your lack of fiscal management competencies and your political will and statesman acumen.

You quickly embark on costly sojurns to sit with the Pope Ms. Pelosi and Senator Kerry and others deliberate with those that seek an uncivilized barbarian-like dark ages rather than a world of hope, promise and technological evolution bringing quality of Life to so many. From your actions, it seems that it might be best for you to serve in the front lines to understand how dangerous your present chartered course of weakness in fortitude presents great danger to not only America, but to the good and compassionate people, to youngsters hoping for a better Life everywhere.

It is best to point to the Vatican, to German leadership of the EU, to you in Congress and to all those who sit in the throne of arrogance and political checkers that the printing of “fiat” dollars will only hinder any chance of finding our way to transparency, to integrity, to governing by the people and for the people and just as in history, it is only with conviction and strength that goodness won over evil.

To those in the administration from Mr. President down to the local politicians with their personal agenda versus the real interests of family and red, white and blue America, a beacon of hope for so many, those seeking our demise are lurking about and it is only with organization, commitment and astute diligence in strength which will gain the respect of foes, not bureaucractic empty jargon. Acknowledging the enemy and having a chat with them and to our disbelief, appropriating monies that will inevitably fall into the hands of the same who plot to kill us –

From my perspective which is shared by many of my fellow neighbors and friends, “It is not the enemy we the people fear for be assured that we will bear arms to protect Life and the pursuit of Liberty especially for our young, however, it is you in Washington, at the State House and at the local posts that we now fear more.”

God Bless America!

We love our country and the most charitable people who are compassionate, yet (we) understand that leadership means just that – leadership which values right from wrong and the willingness to send our troops into war for Freedom and Liberty and Justice for all which is not derived without great sacrifice for it is our men and women who have died on the soils of many lands far distant from their birthplace to afford us the opportunity to repent and strive to work hard and lend our clasp of hand to others who seek the respect for humanity and the Glory of God.

Wake up Washington for the hour is late and those that seek our demise relish in our lack of strength, our willingness to wallow in conviction and bow to self-interest groups and to other nations who see our unwillingness to press forward together to address the plague which can only be cured by repenting for our ways. Strength in courage and challenging decision-making will soothe the wounds and heal them with patience and persistence.

Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA

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