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Cyber an NSA, Not a DHS, Thing

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By Allan Holmes March 9, 2009

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The debate over who controls cybersecurity in government is heating up. The news that Rod Beckstrom would resign this coming Friday as director of the National Cybersecurity Center elevated the struggle between who will control cybersecurity in the federal government. Beckstrom, whose center is part of the Homeland Security Department, says he was frustrated by the National Security Agency's push to control everything cyber. The last straw, evidently, is NSC's implication that the center be moved to NSA's headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.

The pushing is likely to become more like a shoving match now that "NSA Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander will be giving the keynote address at this year's RSA security conference," reported Wired's Threat Level blog. More from that post:

The Bush Administration frequently tried to equate crime on the internet with national security to gather support for its interest in monitoring internet activities. Alexander's RSA talk will likely continue this trend and serve to bolster the NSA's efforts to wrest control of the government's cybersecurity efforts from the Department of Homeland Security, a prospect that concerns civil liberties advocates, given the NSA's acknowledged warrantless domestic wiretapping program and allegations that the agency also secretly tapped domestic internet communications without a warrant.

DHS is likely to lose this fight - if it hasn't already. Nextgov's Jill Aitoro, in an article posted on Monday, quotes Jim Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who advised the Obama administration to establish an independent cybersecurity body, saying, "I don't think it's a tug of war between NSA and DHS, mainly because I think DHS is out of the running."

Bob Charette, a Nextgov blogger who also writes The Risk Factor blog, isn't betting on DHS coming out on top, either. He says if he were a cybersecurity center employee, "I would be figuring out commuting routes to Fort Meade."

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