Officials: Security plan on track

Despite public outcry and congressional interest, federal officials are sticking to their schedule for developing and releasing a plan to protect the federal information infrastructure from cyberattacks. Several stories in the media last week inaccurately reported that the draft of the National Plan for Information Systems Protection would put the FBI in charge of monitoring private-sector and government networks for cyberattacks through the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (Fidnet).

This touched off protests from public-interest groups about citizens' privacy, and several members of Congress asked for a complete copy of the draft and a briefing in the next few weeks.

Officials from the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO), the National Infrastructure Protection Center and other high-level federal groups involved in creating the plan said the attention to what is still an internal document under development will not change anything.

"This will have no effect on the process," one senior National Security Council official said. "It is just now completing the second round of comments from the agencies and industry...and will be brought to the president in October."

Others stressed that the plan deals only with federal networks and that the privacy and civil rights of Americans are being taken into account at every step.

"An important element of the Fidnet program is a legal review by the Justice Department," said John Tritak, director of the CIAO. The plan also is being reviewed by the chief counselor for privacy at the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and those reviews may change the current version of the plan, he said.

In fact, the first version of the plan has already been reviewed by the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, which determined it was completely legal, according to a senior DOJ official.

The plan is based on the critical infrastructure protection plans from agencies and industry required by Presidential Decision Directive 63 and originally was scheduled to be sent to Congress and the president this fall, Tritak said.

It also includes programs for education and training of information security professionals, research and development of computer security profits, and the basis for revisions of current laws to "promote greater information sharing, enhance systems security, and strengthen protections for civil liberties and privacy."

Although members of Congress has known about the plan for some time, most did not realize its extent, and that is partly what touched off a request from Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) to receive a copy of the plan, said a spokesman for the senator.

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