Cyber Security Initiative is Too Secret, SASC Says

The new National Cyber Security Initiative that is intended to reduce the vulnerability of government information networks and to devise an information warfare doctrine is so highly classified that it is undermining the deterrent value of the project, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) said in a new report.

“It is difficult to conceive how the United States could promulgate a meaningful [information warfare] deterrence doctrine if every aspect of our capabilities and operational concepts is classified,” the Senate report said.

During the cold war, “deterrence was not possible without letting friends and adversaries alike know what capabilities we possessed and the price that adversaries would pay in a real conflict. Some analogous level of disclosure is necessary in the cyber domain.”

(Or, as Dr. Strangelove put it 40 years ago, “The whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret!”)

As things stand, the Senate report said, “virtually everything about the [cyber security] initiative is highly classified, and most of the information that is not classified is categorized as ‘For Official Use Only’.”

“These restrictions preclude public education, awareness, and debate about the policy and legal issues, real or imagined, that the initiative poses in the areas of privacy and civil liberties.”

“The committee strongly urges the administration to reconsider the necessity and wisdom of the blanket, indiscriminate classification levels established for the initiative.”

The committee’s remarks on the National Cyber Security Initiative were published in its report on the 2009 defense authorization act, excerpted here.

0 thoughts on “Cyber Security Initiative is Too Secret, SASC Says

  1. I asked the same question about the secrecy surrounding the national cyber security initiatives to Kevin Coleman who blogs on cyber warfare for DefenseTech.org. He actually took the time to speak with me on the phone. What I took away was that with the broad use of the same software all over the world, disclosing how we will address our security can allow those who wish to do us harm the ability to reverse engineer our measures and find new ways to attack our systems. I talked to our IT guys and they actually agreed with his concerns. There should be some oversight but not in the public venue.

  2. There seems to be a policy of “let them imagine the worst.” kind of deterrence. The only problem is that time, and time again, when the veil is pulled back, it is discovered that behind it lay not much at all. A veneer of competence disguising incompetence.

  3. This phenomenon must be symptomatic of the devolution of a culture of democracy into one of secrecy for the sake of secrecy. Other manifestations of such a paranoid national security state mentality have included Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. Perhaps we should go back and review social theory a little bit here folks. Needed are definitions of “democracy”, “fascism”, “communism” and “totalitarianism”. This discussion in our government has lost all relevance to the public that it purports to serve.
    I am happy to supply said definitions for further discussion.
    Lois White Buffalo (an alias- real id is secret)
    (formerly a citizen and resident of the USA, now actively seeking political asylum due to theft of my identity by the secret government.)

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