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Focus on new antiterror cabinet post grows
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 03:03:22 -0500 (CDT)
By Dan Verton
Sep. 21, 2001
WASHINGTON -- One day after President Bush announced a new
cabinet-level position to handle homeland security operations,
including cyberterrorism, federal officials today said they are
waiting to see what role the new agency will play in the fight against
In his speech before a joint session of Congress last night, Bush
named Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to head the new Office of Homeland
Security, an agency responsible for coordinating the antiterrorism
efforts of dozens of federal agencies. Ridge will report directly to
The agency is expected to create a virtual tripwire that would alert
the national security community to any significant terrorist threats
and potential cyberthreats without violating the privacy of U.S.
citizens or compromising the proprietary data of private firms, which
own and operate the bulk of the nation's critical infrastructure.
In an interview today, Ron Dick, director of the FBI's National
Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) said it is too early to tell
what the new post will mean for the NIPC or for federal cyberdefenses.
"I'll wait until my Commander-in-Chief tells me what to do next," he
However, Dick said the level of interagency cooperation at the NIPC in
the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been
"outstanding." Although the NIPC isn't operating under an increased
alert condition, Dick said the agency is "going full-out" and that the
threat of a cyberterrorist attack remains real.
"The idea of [cyber] tools being used for malicious purposes by
terrorist groups or criminals certainly exists," he said.
The name of the new cabinet office is similar to one proposed in
February by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), a member of the House Armed
Services Committee. Thornberry, an outspoken critic of the perceived
lack of cooperation between federal agencies on terrorism issues,
including cyberterrorism, proposed the creation of a National Homeland
Security Agency (NHSA).
Thornberry's proposal called for NHSA to use the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) as a building block for an integrated effort
to oversee government and private-sector efforts to protect the
nation's critical infrastructure from both cyber and physical attacks.
The Bush administration has not yet released details of Ridge's new
Kim Kotlar, a member of Thornberry's staff, said Thornberry continues
to believe that a new organization is needed to "provide a common
purpose and a common mission" to antiterrorism and cyberdefenses and
to "develop crosswalks and synergies" between agencies.
"Our approach says you need a fundamental reorganization of the
federal government," said Kotlar.
In a statement released today, Thornberry praised Bush's appointment
of Ridge and the creation of the new office.
On a related note, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said on Friday the
new office should spearhead the nation's anti-cyberterrorism efforts
in addition to leading the charge against more traditional threats.
Americans are so dependent on IT that it has become a vital
infrastructure and is considered part of the homeland today, said
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's Committee on Governmental Affairs.
"So much of our lives, commerce and society are on the Internet...that
we've created a new form of vulnerability," Lieberman said, speaking
after a hearing that examined how the Office of Homeland Security
should be organized.
Friday's Senate hearing debated whether Ridge's office should become a
separate agency or an office within the executive branch. Having heard
testimony from two separate advisory panels that have been examining
the terrorist threat on American soil for years, Lieberman said his
committee would consider both structures and consult with the Bush
administration with the goal of entering legislation on the new
On September 26 the committee will hold a hearing to discuss the
vulnerability of the country's critical infrastructures, including IT,
Cara Garretson, of the IDG News Service, contributed to this report.
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- Focus on new antiterror cabinet post grows InfoSec News (Sep 25)