U.S. cyber security director quits

Rod Beckstrom cites a cash shortage and conflicts among agencies.

March 07, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The head of the nation's cyber security center has resigned amid persistent turf battles and confusion over the control and protection of the country's vast computer networks and systems.

Rod Beckstrom's decision to step down as director of the National Cyber Security Center comes as the White House is conducting a broad 60-day review of how well the government is using technology to protect everything from classified national security data to key financial systems and air traffic control.

In a blunt letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Beckstrom complained about a shortage of money for the center and a clash over whether the National Security Agency should control cyber efforts. The role of the NSA in protecting domestic computer networks has triggered debate, particularly among privacy and civil liberties groups who oppose giving such control to a U.S. spy agency.

Intelligence officials argue, however, that they must be involved in order to adequately defend the country and its networks.

Beckstrom's letter was dated Thursday, and said his resignation would be effective March 13.

Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the department was working with other federal agencies, specifically the NSA, to protect civilian networks, and is reaching out to the private sector to find additional ways to improve cyber security.

President Obama last month ordered the review of the nation's cyber security and put former Bush administration aide Melissa Hathaway in charge of the effort. Hathaway has been meeting with industry leaders, Capitol Hill staffers and other experts about what the federal government's role should be in protecting information networks against an attack.

As a candidate, Obama criticized President Bush's cyber security efforts and suggested that as president he would have a cyber advisor who would report directly to him.

It was not known whether that is still the plan. On Thursday, Obama named a federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, to work in the White House. Kundra is to have a role in overseeing the ability of computer systems to speak to one another and the security for the federal government's vast information databanks.

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