Lawmaker Demands Answers on Exodus of White House Cyber Officials

vichie81/Shutterstock.com

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., wants the White House to respond to reports that it’s forcing high-ranking officials in the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer to step down.

One lawmaker is taking the Trump administration to task over allegations that it’s forcing senior White House cybersecurity officials to resign from their posts.

On Friday, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., demanded the White House offer an explanation for the recent exodus of cybersecurity officials from the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer. The request came days after reports that more than a dozen high-ranking cyber officials had left their roles under pressure from the White House, which sought to purge the office of Obama-era staffers.

In a letter to the president’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Lieu voiced concerns over the administration’s handling of its cybersecurity wing, arguing the loss of institutional knowledge could leave the White House vulnerable to attacks.

“A White House data breach would give our adversaries an untold advantage in almost every foreign policy and national security matter,” Lieu wrote.

The Office of the Chief Information Security Officer was created after a 2014 incident where Russian hackers breached the White House’s unclassified computer network, and in the years since, the group served as the primary coordinator for the White House’s digital networks. But according to recent reports, organizational changes are slowly stripping the office of its teeth.

In an email obtained last week by Axios, Dimitrios Vastakis, former branch chief of the White House computer network defense, said the administration is engaging in a coordinated campaign to oust career cybersecurity officials. According to the email, staffers are “systematically being targeted for removal” through strategies that include “revocation of incentives, reducing the scope of duties, reducing access to programs, revoking access to buildings, and revoking positions with strategic and tactical decision making authorities.”

As a result, Vastakis said, “the White House is posturing itself to be electronically compromised once again.” 

Lieu referenced Vastakis’ allegations in the letter and pressed Mulvaney to disclose any attempts by the administration to remove career cyber staff “without good cause.” He went on to ask whether the White House plans to fill the newly vacated positions.

Though every administration has “the prerogative to pick their team,” it takes time to rebuild institutional knowledge, according to Cyxtera Federal Group President and former Federal Chief Information Security Officer Greg Touhill. Until that happens, he said, organizations might find themselves less prepared to respond to incidents.

“That kind of experience doesn’t come overnight. It certainly takes a long time to get used to what the lanes in the road are or could be,” Touhill said in a conversation with Nextgov. “Any time you have any transitions of personnel, you’re going to have to deal with some loss of organizational prowess, skill, knowledge, and your reaction time does go down. It takes longer to make better-informed decisions when you lose that institutional knowledge and have to play catch up.”

Lieu also questioned the administration’s decision to fold its cybersecurity office into the White House’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, which exempts the group from a law requiring officials to archive records. He said the move “fits the President’s history of obstructing and hiding transcripts and government business by manipulating internal bureaucratic procedures,” and the White House should provide its rationale for the decision to Congress.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.