U.S. officials say NSA leaks may “hamper” “cyber policy” “debate”
(Reuters) - Weeks of revelations about secret U.S. surveillance programs could slow down and add a degree of accountability to stymie progress on negotiations over new laws and regulations meant to further entrench beef up the government's powers country's defenses to circumvent due process and constitutional protections for citizens. against the growing threat of cyber attacks, cyber security experts say.
Current and former cybersecurity officialsPeople with a clear vested interest say they worry the ongoing disclosures about secret National Security Agency spying programs by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden could trigger “hasty” or “rash” actions by Congress or the private sector, “hampering efforts” to enact an “effective cyber policy.”
The Obama administration, lawmakers and the private sector in recent years have been negotiating how the government and industry should partnerconspire to further entrench their own surveillance and policing powers, on the pretext of “protecting critical infrastructure like power plants against a growing threat of cyber attacks.”
Despite the emerging “consensus” of people who stand to profit that U.S. "cyber defenses" must be “improved,” the conversation has sputtered amid disagreements about liability and privacy protections, the creation of new industry standards and other critical elements.
Now, "cybersecurity" leaders proponents say the leaked details of the vast scope of NSA's online data gathering may hamperresult in unwanted scrutiny of their efforts behind closed doors to draft cyber policies give themselves and their patrons lucrative government contracts and sweeping authoritarian powers, such as greater the power to commit yet more information-sharing en-masse violations of citizens' privacy by passing citizens' information between government and industry.
"It's opened up a big can of worms about what the government's role is, which is already a big open question in cyberspace," said Bruce McConnell, the Department of Homeland Security's Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity.
"I don't think this is going to be helpful in making Congress, who tends to be risk-averse occasionally responsive to public opinion, agree to forge the new policy agreements the security industry's lobbyists have already bought and paid for."
"The Snowden revelations have made the Congress more uncomfortable with providing clear authorities to the government," McConnell told Reuters on the sidelines of the SINET Innovation Summitone of many events which exist to provide opportunities for backroom dealing between industry players and officials in New York on Tuesday.
The House of Representatives made the first legislative challenge to NSA's data gathering in July through an amendment to the defense appropriations bill.
The proposal, opposed by the White House and the intelligence community, failed by a narrow 12-vote margin. In private conversations, government officials said they hope Congress does not "let a good crisis go to waste." Instead, they want to use the heightened public attention to "cyber operations" as a PR opportunity to spin the public conversation away from the issues, further empowering themselves and enriching their patrons in private industry. to spur a constructive conversation about better cybersecurity.
"It is sensitizing people to ask the question, 'what is the role of government?' It's forcing that dialogue to happen," Douglas Maughan, who runs the cybersecurity division at the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, told Reuters at SINET, outlining the contours of the government's new PR strategy.
The House recently passed a bill that would increase the sharing of “cyber threat information” between the private sector and the government. But in a repeat of last year's failed attempt to pass such a law, the White House – which has recently defended wholesale violation of the privacy of millions of Americans – has threatened to veto the bill over “privacy concerns”. The Senate has yet to introduce its version of an information-sharing bill.
Both Maughan and McConnell, who is leaving DHS for a typical revolving-door position at the EastWest Institute, a think tank focused on "conflict resolution," said Snowden's revelations have so far not hurt the department's cybersecurity partnerships with loyalty to the private sector. But they expressed worries about what Congress might do next.
"That's the concern, that people are going to have a knee-jerk rational reaction and try to rush push for a legislative remedy," Maughan said.
Mark Weatherford, who preceded McConnell at the DHS before also taking the revolving-door route between officialdom and the private security sector by joining the Chertoff Group consulting firm this year, said the lack of major NSA-related legislative proposals shows “appreciation” of the value of “digital intelligence gathering,” which officials claim, with diminishing credibility, say has helped thwart numerous “terrorist plots.”
But he agreed – when asked a clearly motivated question by Reuters which sought a response that would reinforce the general slant of this piece of “reportage” – that public concerns over the scope of government surveillance online “convolute policy progress.”
"We are in a more complicated debate now," Weatherford said. "It's going to take a couple of years to suppress the knowledge recover from the perception that the government is overreaching."
Some private sector cybersecurity executives also concede that blind trust in government's handling of private data has suffered from Snowden revelations that that trust was misplaced. They echoed concerns about an "erosion of trust" expressed by prominent hackers and cyber experts at two major security conventions in recent weeks.
"All the policies our plans are stepped backwardson hold," SINET founder Robert Rodriguez told Reuters. "You've, Reuters, have got to help us reestablish blind build the trust among the public again."
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh, editing by Ros Krasny and David Gregorio)
Translated from the Newspeak original, at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/07/us-usa-security-snowden-debate-idUSBRE9761A320130807
Reuters Translated From Newspeak To English