Cyber security chief quits over power struggle with NSA

Cyber security chief quits over power struggle with NSA

Summary: Rod Beckworth quits after a year on the job, saying he won't be subjugated to National Security Agency. But does Obama support NSA dominance here?


Just shy of a year in the job, Rod Beckstrom has resigned as director of the National Cyber Security Center because, he says, cyber security is being dominated by the National Security Agency. As head of the NCSC, Beckstrom reported directly to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, which was Michael Chertoff for most of Beckstrom's tenure. Janet Napolitano is now head of DHS.

Beckstrom complained in a letter to Napolitano that NSA is controlling cyber security efforts, "a bad strategy on multiple grounds." Reading the coverage it seems like the last straw might have been plans to move NCSC to an NSA facility at Fort Meade. Beckstrom said he was not going to "subjugate the NCSC underneath the NSA."

As Beckstrom sees it, he envisioned a cyber security strategy built on network operations, not intelligence culture. Based on the NSA's behavior under Bush, Beckstrom's concerns seem to have merit:

Allowing a single agency such as the NSA to handle all top-level government network security and monitoring functions poses a significant threat to "our democratic processes," he said. "Instead, we advocated a model where there is a credible civilian government cybersecurity capability which interfaces with, but is not controlled by, the NSA."

Not surprisingly, he didn't get much support or even funding - about five weeks' worth - in 10 months under the Bush Administration. With Beckstrom out, Melissa Hathaway, a holdover from the Bush years, will have a clear path to restructure CNCI as she sees fit, after a 60-day review of all cybersecurity efforts.

What still isn't clear, I suppose, is whether it's Bush officials who were pushing for NSA control of cyber security (that seems likely, given Bush's preference for approaches that are hidden and unmonitored) or whether the Obama administration is OK with NSA control. It seems more likely that no decision had been made there but the question must be a core issue in Hathaway's review.

Topics: Security, IT Employment

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  • just replace windoze with Linux

    and cybersecurity is a done deal!
    Linux Geek
    • I agree

      Put Linsux on every computer: If it will not run, it cannot be infected! :)
    • Are you daft?

      Just what the hell does this have to do with ANYTHING that was said in this article?

      Oh, wait, you're the same idiot that gets first comment on every article to say the same thing. I forgot, this is your gimmick. Carry on.
  • Umm

    Linux stops China from trying to crack government computers????
  • The problem with your analysis is ....

    ... it is too heavy on blaming President Bush and not enough on blaming President Obama. He didn't resign on President Bush's watch. The Spendulus Bill is not last year's business. President Obama promised to end earmarks. How about trying to live up to that promise.
    • Problems have silver linings

      Cyber security is important, it says quite a bit when the CS Chief feels his duties are better served by pointing out problems with DHS/NSA and inter-agency coordination problems. He was (I think) hired by Bush and it seems more issues came to light now that Obama has transitioned. I would expect a person of this caliber would not easily go against other federal departments or agencies and certainly not for Bush-bashing, so I just don't see ShadeTree's post here holding water - would YOU want to piss off the NSA???

      ShadeTree - The stimulus bill was actually put in place under Bush's term - the great thing now is, Bush isn't seeing it through and I don't believe he should have spent as much money as he did in the first place. He outspent every other President, not really very "conservative". With the NSA in control of cyber networks, we may be living a lie - thats the point of the article.

      • Not the bill I'm talking about and ....

        ... not the one in the news. The Bill currently up for vote has 9,000 earmarks and raises government spending by 8.45%. It was written while the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate. President Obama pledged he would go line by line and eliminate earmarks. Now he is saying the Bill is last year's business. That is a lie that should insult even the staunchest Democrat's intelligence.

        Now let's talk about the Stimulus Bill that President Obama signed. He had the nerve to say he was proud that the Bill was passed without any earmarks. Another blatant lie.

        The fact is the Democrats control the Whitehouse, the House and the Senate by one vote less then a super majority. That means they only have to get one Republican to vote their way and they can pass what ever legislation they want. They can continue to blame the Republicans or they can go about fixing the problems we face. So far, they chose to blame the Republicans!
  • RE: Cyber security chief quits over power struggle with NSA

    I think it's typical, unfortunately. Anyone with scruples and unbiased, good intentions hasn't got a prayer within our gummint critters ol' boy networks.

    They're pulling another RIAA.
  • RE: Cyber security chief quits over power struggle with NSA