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3/9/2009
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U.S. Cybersecurity Director Resigns, Blames NSA

Rod Beckstrom criticizes the NSA's dominance of most of the nation's cybersecurity initiatives.

The government's director of cybersecurity resigned Thursday, warning that the National Security Agency's control of national cybersecurity efforts poses a potential threat to U.S. democratic processes.

Rod Beckstrom, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, was appointed in March 2008 to run the National Cybersecurity Center, a group created to oversee government cybersecurity efforts.

In his March 5 resignation letter, a copy of which was published by The Wall Street Journal, Beckstrom criticized the NSA's dominance of most of the nation's cybersecurity initiatives.

"While acknowledging the critical important of the NSA to our intelligence efforts, I believe this is a bad strategy on multiple grounds," he wrote. "The intelligence culture is very different than a network operations or security culture. In addition, the threats to our democratic processes are significant if all top-level government network security and monitoring are handled by one organization (either directly or indirectly)."

Beckstrom said he supports a model that allows for a civilian government cybersecurity capability operating in partnership with the NSA, but not controlled by it. He also made it clear that he was unhappy with the lack of funding at the NCSC, noting that the organization "received only five weeks of funding, due to various roadblocks engineered with the [Department of Homeland Security] and by the Office of Management and Budget."

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-NY, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science, and Technology, expressed regret over Beckstrom's departure and blamed the Bush administration for hobbling Beckstrom's efforts by withholding funds.

"Mr. Beckstrom's departure is a huge loss for the department," Clarke said in an e-mailed statement. "If the last administration had provided him with the appropriate resources and staffing, he would have been extremely effective."

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