http://www.computerworld.com/storyba/0,4125,NAV47_STO64130,00.html 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 terrorists. 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 president. 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 said. 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 responsibilities. 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 organization soon. On September 26 the committee will hold a hearing to discuss the vulnerability of the country's critical infrastructures, including IT, Lieberman said. Cara Garretson, of the IDG News Service, contributed to this report. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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