, The Associated Press 2003-01-06
The Bush administration has reduced by nearly half its initiatives to tighten security for vital computer networks, giving more responsibility to the new Homeland Security Department and eliminating an earlier plan to consult regularly with privacy experts.An internal draft of the administration's upcoming plan also eliminates a number of voluntary proposals for America's corporations to improve security, focusing instead on suggestions for U.S. government agencies, such as a broad new study assessing risks.
"Governments can lead by example in cyberspace security," the draft said.
The draft, circulating among government offices and industry executives this week, was obtained by The Associated Press. President Bush was expected to sign the plan, called the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, and announce the proposals within several weeks.
The new draft pares the number of security proposals from 86 to 49. Among changes, the draft drops an explicit recommendation for the White House to consult regularly with privacy advocates and other experts about how civil liberties might be affected by proposals to improve Internet security.
The draft notes that "care must be taken to respect privacy interests and other civil liberties," and it noted that the new Homeland Security Department will include a privacy officer to ensure that monitoring the Internet for attacks would balance privacy and civil liberties concerns.
"It's perplexing," said James X. Dempsey of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology. "This administration is constantly on the receiving end of criticism on privacy issues. This looks like another example of willfully raising privacy concerns. They should know better by now."
An official for the White House cyber-security office declined to comment, saying the latest draft hasn't yet been published.
The draft obtained by the AP puts the new Homeland Security Department squarely in the role of improving Internet security, proposing to use it to launch some test attacks against civilian U.S. agencies and to improve the safety of automated systems that operate the nation's water, chemical and electrical networks.
The new version also makes it more clear than ever that the Defense Department can wage cyber warfare if the nation is attacked. The administration said previously that government "should continue to reserve the right to respond in an appropriate manner."
The new draft cautions that it can be difficult or even impossible to trace an attack's source. But it warns that the government's response "need not be limited to criminal prosecution. The United States reserves the right to respond in an appropriate manner, including through cyber warfare," it said.
The new version also puts new responsibilities on the CIA and FBI to disrupt other countries from using cyber tactics to collect intelligence on government agencies, companies and universities.
The administration published an early version of its plan in September ? weeks before Congress voted to create the Homeland Security Department ? with 86 recommendations for at home users, small businesses, corporations, universities and government agencies.
Critics, even the InfraGard national organization of private security experts established by the FBI, seized on the lack of new regulations that would have mandated better security practices but could have required America's largest corporations to spend millions for improvements.
"We felt that there was a significant security improvement that could be made most easily through regulation," the InfrGard group wrote to the White House. "In many cases the deeply held conclusion was that the same result could not be reached in the absence of new regulation."
The draft, however, continues to refute the need for any new regulations, saying mandates for private industry would violate the nation's "traditions of federalism and limited government." It said broad regulations would hamstring security by creating a "lowest common-denominator approach" and could result in even worse security.