Report: Obama Preps Sweeping Cyberdefense Executive Order for Wednesday
February 12, 2013 2:15 PM
Order has been anticipated for some time now
President Barack Obama (D) has been widely criticized by conservatives for his use of executive orders to push the federal actions he wants when Congress is unwilling to go along with him. The tactic isn't exactly new (FDR signed nearly 4,500 executive orders) and President Obama hasn't used it all that often (he's signed 144) [
]. But his critics contend his executive orders are more sweeping and loaded with action than past ones, so the small count is misleading.
I. Some Critics Say the Order Goes Too Far...
That criticism may be revived this week if President Obama drops his
long-awaited cyberwarfare executive order
spoke with government officials who had seen the order and said it is expected for a Wednesday drop. The order is expected to expand the role the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) plays in policing the homeland online from both internal and external threats.
President Obama wants to expand the federal gov't to "solve" the cybersecurity "crisis".
[Image Source: U.S. Aid]
The expansion of DHS authority alone is enough to make many a bit queasy. Under President Bush, the new intelligence agency was a key point of controversy from his Democratic and third party critics.
Some Republicans even opposed the DHS under both Bush and Obama, although they're a drastic minority in Congress. Perhaps most notable is
Rep. Ron Paul
(R-Texas) who has suggested that the Department of Homeland Security is poor in talent, offensive to civil liberties, and redundant, commenting [
Before 9/11, we were spending $40 billion a year, and the FBI was producing numerous information about people being trained on airplanes, to fly them but not land them. And they totally ignored them. So it’s the inefficiency of the bureaucracy that is the problem. So, increasing this with the Department of Homeland Security and spending more money doesn’t absolve us of the problem. Yes, we have every right in the world to know something about intelligence gathering. But we have to have intelligent people interpreting this information.
But like it or not, Ron Paul and his supporters on the left and right may be unable to stop President Obama from pushing through the plan.
II. ...Others Complain It's Too Weak
One thing that will make it difficult to rally Congressional opposition to the order is that the order itself is actually relatively similar to the bills put forth by bipartisan committees in both the House and Senate last year.
most Congressional Democrats and Republicans agreed
that some sort of increase in cyberdefense spending and more codified framework for public-private sharing of information on threats was necessary. Both plans involved incorporating the DHS into those roles. So on the surface at least the pending executive order does not sound all that different from what either the House or Senate had agreed upon.
Ultimately, neither bill passed last year, thanks largely to partisan bickering. While
the House bill
were remarkably similar, the Republican controlled house insisted on its version being passed, while the Democratic controlled Senate demanded its bill be the final version. Ultimately that gridlock sunk both bills, when a series of small changes would likely have been enough to reconcile the differences between the two bills.
Despite drafting nearly identical bills last year, the House and Senate were not able to reach agreement, due largely to partisan bickering. [Image Source: U.S. Congress]
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) is among the cyberdefense agencies frustrated by that bureaucratic train wreck. But officials to acknowledge that it won't be easy convincing the private sector to trust federal security.
Comments FBI Executive Assistant Director Richard McFeely, head of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, "Our biggest issue right now is getting the private sector to a comfort level so they can report anomalies, malware, incidents within their network [without them fearing media leaks]."
Reportedly the information sharing portions of the order will be voluntary for most businesses.
Indeed, despite the controversy over what the order
do, there's also some concern/criticism about how much it doesn't get done. Comments one source to
-- "We know the executive order isn't going to go as far as legislation could or will go, but it's a good start."
Stewart Baker, former National Security Agency (NSA) general counsel and a past assistant secretary for policy at the DHS comments, "I think this can fairly be described as a down payment on legislation. [It should do something positive], but whether it will provide practical protection from cyber attacks is still in doubt."
"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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