Obama Reveals Cyberspace Policy

Stephen Yagielowicz
WASHINGTON — President Obama revealed his administration's view of the Internet as "a strategic national asset" today, including the announcement of the country's first cyber czar.

According to a White House report, earlier this year the President directed the National Security Council (NSC) and Homeland Security Council to conduct a 60-day review of the plans, programs, and activities underway throughout government that address the nation's communications and information infrastructure "in order to develop a strategic framework to ensure that the U.S. government's initiatives in this area are appropriately integrated, resourced, and coordinated."

In response to the results of this review, the President today announced the creation of an as yet unfilled position for a national Cybersecurity Coordinator, who will be tasked with ensuring America's virtual security.

"We meet today at a transformational moment — a moment in history when our interconnected world presents us, at once, with great promise but also great peril," Obama began.

Calling America's digital infrastructure "the backbone that underpins a prosperous economy and a strong military and an open and efficient government," Obama went on to comment that cyberspace is real — "and so are the risks that come with it."

"It's the great irony of our Information Age — the very technologies that empower us to create and to build also empower those who would disrupt and destroy," Obama said. "And this paradox — seen and unseen — is something that we experience every day."

The President revealed that both he and his Presidential campaign had been compromised by hackers prior to the election and that he worked closely with the CIA, FBI and the Secret Service as well as private security consultants to restore their security and investigate the breach.

"It was 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," Obama said.

The President also underscored the strategic importance of cyberspace, saying that "it's now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation."

To address these challenges, the administration sought out the expertise of a wide variety of groups including industry and academia, civil liberties and privacy advocates, as well as every level and branch of government from local to state to federal, civilian, military, homeland as well as intelligence, Congress and international partners.

"I consulted with my national security teams, my homeland security teams, and my economic advisors," Obama stressed, to underscore the holistic approach his team took in developing the plan which makes protecting our infrastructure a national security priority.

"We will ensure that these networks are secure, trustworthy and resilient," he offered. "We will deter, prevent, detect, and defend against attacks and recover quickly from any disruptions or damage."

The review team's report includes a near-term action plan for U.S. Government activities to strengthen cybersecurity, including five basic recommendations: Lead from the top; build capacity for a Digital Nation; share responsibility for cybersecurity; create effective information sharing and incident response procedures; and encourage innovation.

While Obama's speech focused primarily on the national security implications of cyber security and the government's increased watchfulness over the Internet, the President also expressed his support of net neutrality and his desire to take a "hands off" approach to the private sector Internet.

"Let me also be clear about what we will not do," the President stated. "Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not — I repeat, will not include — monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be — open and free."

Interesting to this observer was Obama's emphasis on the need to safeguard American's "privacy and civil liberties" — which includes the new office having "an official with a portfolio specifically dedicated to safeguarding the privacy and civil liberties of the American people."

Hopefully these open-minded measures will extend to protecting our First Amendment freedoms — allowing legitimate companies to responsibly offer adult entertainment products and services over the Internet.

"So a new world awaits — a world of greater security and greater potential prosperity — if we reach for it, if we lead," Obama concluded. "So long as I'm President of the United States, we will do just that."