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Top cybersecurity official quits, says NSA has too much power

by Rachel Oswald
RawStory.com
March 10, 2009

Last week's resignation of the top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security has revealed a thorny bureaucratic rivalry between the National Security Agency and the resigned official who accuses NSA of having too tight a hold on cybersecurity.

After less than a year as director of the National Cyber Security Center, Rod Beckstrom resigned on Friday, citing a lack of funding and efforts by the NSA to dominate government cypersecurity. The Wall Street Journal has his letter of resignation, which can be read here.

In the letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Beckstrom charged that NSA "effectively controls DHS cyber efforts" through employee detailees to NCSC from NSA, technology insertions and the proposed move of the NCSC to NSA's Fort Meade facility.

"While acknowledging the critical importance of NSA to our intelligence efforts, I believe this is a bad strategy on multiple grounds," Beckstrom wrote. "The intelligence culture is very different than a network operations or security culture."

Beckstrom said as director he objected to the "subjugation" of NCSC under NSA and had advocated for a "credible civilian government cybersecurity capability" that cooperated with NSA but didn't answer to it.

"This is a coordination body and it resides alongside or above the other centers, but certainly not below them," Beckstrom said of the NCSC in a Washington Post interview after his resignation. "In my view, it is very important that there be independence for the [center], and that it be able to carry out its role."

In a statement to Forbes, DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the agency regrets losing Beckstrom, but "has a strong relationship with the NSA and continues to work in close collaboration with all of our federal partners on protecting federal civilian networks. We look forward to our continued, positive working relationship with all our partners on outreach to the private sector as we strive to further secure our nation's cyber networks."

According to The Post's Tuesday article, "Beckstrom said he decided to leave roughly 10 days ago, after learning that orders were canceled for computers, network equipment, furniture and office space in Arlington slated for his group. While he officially reports to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Beckstrom said he has not yet had a meeting with her."

The cypersecurity initiative to protect government networks was begun by the Bush administration, reports The Journal, and the Obama administration is currently conducting a 60-day review of that effort and its related policies. Recommendations on the effort are expected next month.

Source URL: http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Top_cybersecurity_official_quits_blames_NSA_0310.html

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