[ISN] Focus on new antiterror cabinet post grows

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Sep 25 2001 - 01:03:22 PDT

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    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 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
    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
    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.
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