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3/10/2009
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Cybersecurity Hearing Prompts Calls For Leadership, Laws

A key issue at the hearing was whether cybersecurity should be overseen by the intelligence and military establishment or whether it should also include a role for the private sector.

Halfway into a 60-day review of U.S. cybersecurity policy, lawmakers and tech industry experts are expressing alarm about the state of the nation's cyberdefenses and hunger for leadership in the unacknowledged cyberwar against America.

The House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science, and Technology, part of the House Committee on Homeland Security, held a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to assess the state of federal cybersecurity.

In stark terms, hearing participants highlighted the urgency of taking action against cyberattacks after years of unimplemented recommendations, with one participant going so far as to suggest the need for a version of the Monroe Doctrine for cyberspace.

"There is no more significant threat to our national and economic security than that we face in cyberspace," said U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science, and Technology.

A key issue at the hearing was whether cybersecurity should be overseen by the intelligence and military establishment or whether it should also include a role for civilian agencies and the private sector.

The lack of civilian clout in cyberspace policy was raised last Thursday, when Rod Beckstrom, director of the National Cybersecurity Center, resigned, citing lack of budgetary support and opposition to the National Security Agency's de facto control of federal cybersecurity initiatives.

At the hearing, U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, chided the previous administration for failing to support Beckstrom and stressed the need to strike a balance between civilian and military control of cybersecurity.

"I don't disagree with DNI statement that NSA houses most of the cybertalent in federal government, but I don't think answer lies in giving control to NSA," he said.

That was a sentiment echoed by Amit Yoran, chairman and CEO of NetWitness and former director of the National Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security. "An effective national cybersecurity effort must leverage intelligence community's superior acumen but is in grave peril if controlled by intelligence community," he said.

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