Politics

Webb: Cyber warfare biggest daily threat to U.S.

Former senator Jim Webb says maintaining "superiority in our strategic systems" would be one of his foreign policy priorities if elected president.

Cybersecurity did not feature prominently in the first debate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but long-shot candidate Jim Webb did single out cyber warfare as an acute threat to U.S. national security.

"Our greatest long-term strategic challenge is our relation with China," the former Virginia senator said during the Oct. 13 debate. "Our greatest day-to-day threat is cyber warfare against this country. Our greatest military operational threat is resolving these situations in the Middle East."

Webb, a Vietnam veteran who served as Navy secretary during the Reagan administration, did not mince words when it came to who he felt was wreaking havoc in cyberspace.

"I would say this…to the unelected, authoritarian government of China.… You do not have the right to conduct cyber warfare against tens of millions of American citizens," he said in a possible reference to the breach of Office of Personnel Management data. "And in a Webb administration, we will do something about that."

On his campaign website, Webb lists maintaining "superiority in our strategic systems" as one of his foreign policy priorities, adding, "This includes not only nuclear weapons but also such areas as technology, space and cyber warfare."

Other tech issues that turned up during the over two-hour sparring session in Las Vegas included Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account while secretary of State and the National Security Agency's collection of telephone metadata.

Clinton admitted that the email arrangement was a mistake, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for moving on from the controversy by saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."

Clinton and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee defended their Senate votes for the Patriot Act, which enabled NSA's bulk data collection.

Sanders said he would shut down the NSA program. Congress altered the program in June to end direct government data collection and to require NSA to apply to telecommunications carriers for telephone metadata. NSA is scheduled to stop direct collection in late November.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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