Friday, June 18, 2010

"Protecting Cyberspace Act" targets WikiLeaks threat

As anyone following the news knows, the United States is at risk of "cyber attack." The impact of cyber war could prove devastating to the economy (and imagine your life without Facebook). The cyber attack threat is not only real, it is broad, encompassing threats that include the potential leakage of classified documents.  For example, the unauthorized release of classified reports detailing how America continues to fight global terrorism.

Fortunately, Congress is taking action:
Confronting threats ranging from Chinese superhackers to the release of secret documents on WikiLeaks and other whistleblowing websites, the Obama administration may be on the verge of assuming broad new powers to regulate the Internet on national-security grounds...
A new bill would grant President Obama the power to declare a “national cyber-emergency” at his discretion and force private companies tied to the Web, including Internet service providers and search engines, to take action in response—moves that could include limiting or even cutting off their connections to the World Wide Web for up to 30 days.

The Protecting Cyberspace Act was introduced last week by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the panel’s ranking Republican. Counterparts in the House Homeland Security Committee have endorsed identical legislation, meaning that a final bill could be adopted by the full Congress within weeks. The White House has not taken a stand on the legislation so far.

Lieberman said the bill was intended to prevent a “cyber 9/11” in which “cyberwarriors, cyberspies, cyberterrorists and cybercriminals” take aim at the United States and try to shut down infrastructure that is dependent on the Internet—a list of targets that include everything from nuclear power plants to banks to Pentagon computer networks.
We must hope Congress passes "The Protecting Cyberspace Act" quickly.  Of course, this kind of legislation cannot prevent a cyber attack from happening. The underlying danger will not go away. Nevertheless, our president must have tools at his disposal to contain the damage -- especially in the (likely) event WikiLeaks were to release more US government secrets. 

We can never know what information the terrorists will try to use against us.   Common sense says that the fight against global terrorism requires that secrecy be maintained wherever possible throughout all levels of government.  Even the most innocuous government data, report, or document could be turned into a weapon that could be used by our enemies to destroy America.  That's why DoF urges that all federal agencies endeavor to classify information wherever possible.  

Therefore, on one hand, the federal government must seek to classify everything it possibly can; on the other, it must clamp down on so-called "whistle-blowers." Fortunately, the Obama administration is taking the whistle-blower threat seriously.

WikiLeaks is diametrically opposed to some fundamental DoF principles.    Although WikiLeaks cannot easily be shut down,  it can be contained and -- as a 2008 US Army Counterintelligence report suggests -- discredited.

In the meantime, fear Wikileaks.

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Dr. Rebecca Wolf
Undersecretary for Community and New Media
United States Department of Fear