Obama Outlines Coordinated Cyber-Security Plan == Big Brother is now Watching the Right Wing Radicals

Obama Outlines Coordinated Cyber-Security Plan
WASHINGTON — President Obama declared Friday that the country’s disparate efforts to “deter, prevent, detect and defend” against cyberattacks would now be run out of the White House, but he also promised that he would bar the federal government from regular monitoring of “private-sector networks” and the Internet traffic that has become the backbone of American communications.

Mr. Obama’s speech, which was accompanied by the release of a long-awaited new government strategy, was an effort to balance the United States’ response to a rising security threat with concerns — echoing back to the debates on wiretapping without warrants in the Bush years — that the government would be regularly dipping into Internet traffic that knew no national boundaries.

One element of the strategy clearly differed from that established by the Bush administration in January 2008. Mr. Obama’s approach is described in a 38-page public document being distributed to the public and to companies that are most vulnerable to cyberattack; Mr. Bush’s strategy was entirely classified.

But Mr. Obama’s policy review was not specific about how he would turn many of the goals into practical realities, and he said nothing about resolving the running turf wars among the Pentagon, the National Security Agency, the Homeland Security Department and other agencies over the conduct of defensive and offensive cyberoperations.

The White House approach appears to place a new “cybersecurity coordinator” over all of those agencies. Mr. Obama did not name the coordinator Friday, but the policy review said that whoever the president selects would be “action officer” inside the White House during cyberattacks, whether they were launched on the United States by hackers or governments.

In an effort to silence critics who have complained that the official will not have sufficient status to cut through the maze of competing federal agencies, Mr. Obama said the new coordinator would have “regular access to me,” much like the coordinator for nuclear and conventional threats.

Many computer security executives had been hoping that Mr. Obama’s announcement would represent a turning point in the nation’s unsuccessful effort to turn back a growing cybercrime epidemic. On Friday, several said that while the president’s attention sounded promising, much would depend on whom he chose to fill the role.

James A. Lewis, a director at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington group that published a bipartisan report last year calling on the president to appoint a cyberczar, said that the White House had now narrowed the list of candidates for the position to fewer than 10, but that choosing the right person would be difficult.

“There aren’t a lot of people who have the policy and the strategy skills and the technological knowledge to carry this out,” Mr. Lewis said. “If you’re talking about missiles and space, there are a lot of people who know policy and technology, but in cyber its such a new field we’re talking about a really small gene pool.”

For the first time, Mr. Obama also spoke of his own brush with cyberattacks, in the presidential campaign. “Between August and October, hackers gained access to e-mails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans,” he said, describing events that were known, though sketchily, at the time.

“It was,” he said, “a powerful reminder: in this information age, one of your greatest strengths — in our case, our ability to communicate to a wide range of supporters through the Internet — could also be one of your greatest vulnerabilities.”

Mr. Obama’s speech delved into technology rarely discussed in the East Room of the White House. He referred to “spyware and malware and spoofing and phishing and botnets,” all different approaches to what he called “weapons of mass disruption.”

Although the president did not discuss details of the expanding role for the military in offensive and pre-emptive cyberoperations, senior officials said Friday that the Pentagon planned to create a new cybercommand to organize and train for digital war, and to oversee offensive and defensive operations.

A lingering disagreement has been how to coordinate that new command with the work of the National Security Agency, home to most of the government’s expertise on computer and network warfare. One plan now under discussion would put the same general in charge of both the new cybercommand and the N.S.A. Currently, the security agency’s director is Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who would be expected to be the leading contender for the new, dual position.

Industry executives were generally supportive of the initiative Mr. Obama announced, but also cautious.

“There was nothing I was disappointed in,” said Mark Gerencser, a cybersecurity executive at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that deals extensively in the government’s cybersecurity strategy.

Mr. Hamilton noted that the United States had separated defense and offense in the cybersecurity arena, while its opponents, including Russia and China, had a more fluid strategy.

“It’s like we’re playing football and our adversaries are playing soccer,” he said.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.

How Lawmakers use Tax dollars to fund lavish lifestyles

How Lawmakers use Tax dollars to fund lavish lifestyles
Rick Moran
The scandal in Great Britain over Members of Parliament using expense accounts to fund purchases of luxury items threatens all major parties and many prominent MoP’s.

The Wall Street Journal’s Louis Radnofsky and T.W. Franam decided to take a gander at what our lawmakers have been up to as far as expensing their lifestyles and what they found will blow your socks off:

U.S. politicians, unlike their counterparts in Great Britain, can’t bill taxpayers for personal living expenses. The U.S. Treasury gives them an allowance to cover “official and representational expenses,” according to congressional rules, and the lawmakers enjoy a fair amount of discretion in how they use the funds.

The Senate and House release volumes of the reimbursement requests for these allowances, but do not make them available electronically. A Wall Street Journal review of thousands of pages of these records for 2008 expenses showed most lawmaker spending flowed to areas such as staff salaries, travel, office rent and supplies, and printing and mailing.

But it also turned up spending on an array of products, from the car leases and electronics to a high-end laptop computer and $22 cellphone holder. Rep. Howard Berman expensed $84,000 worth of personalized calendars, printed by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, for his constituents. A spokeswoman for Mr. Berman, a California Democrat, didn’t return requests for comment.

The records show that some lawmakers spent heavily in the final months of the year to draw down allowances before the end of December — a time when U.S. households were paring their budgets and lawmakers were criticizing Detroit auto executives for taking private aircraft to Washington to plead their case for taxpayer funding.

One lawmaker, Eni Faleomavaega, the House delegate from American Samoa, used the official account to purchase 2 46′ televisions. And Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings spent $25,000 leasing a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan.

This is not surprising to anyone who follows Congress. Ed Lasky adds:

It only took the WSJ people to review thousands of pages of documents to reveal this story.

I suppose Congressmen just want this information buried in a blizzard of paper. Where was the New York Times on this story? Nowhere. Don’t give too much credit to Nancy Pelosi. She is married to a very wealthy man who benefited from a big fat contract given to the company CB Richard Ellis. Pelosi’s husband is a major investor in the company and is chairman of the board.

Why is this kind of thing a major scandal in Britain while flying below the media radar here? Probably because most Americans assume the worst about Congress and it is not quite the shock to discover lawmakers enriching themselves here as it is in Great Britain.

We are used to the idea of our lawmakers being greedy, money grubbing Babbits.

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