DNI: Public trust important for cybersecurity

Top intell official says public must be convinced civil liberties are protected

The government must convince people that it can bolster cybersecurity and protect civil liberties, the country’s top intelligence official has said.

Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, said June 8 that the reality of intertwining public, private and government networks has meant increased collaboration with companies to protect the common structure used by agencies and the private sector. However, Blair also acknowledged “a deep suspicion” that many people have about the government, particularly intelligence agencies, being involved in private networks.

Blair's remark's came in a speech at a dinner in Washington hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, a professional organization with members from both government and industry.

“I think that’s going to be a big job in the future,” Blair said. “The president announced the results of a 60-day review, pointed at the importance of striking this balance, and now is the hard part of working out the details.”

President Barack Obama on May 29 announced the results of the administration’s 60-day review of cybersecurity policy. He said his administration’s new approach to cybersecurity would focus on protecting privacy and civil liberties.

“Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not include – I repeat will not include – monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic,” Obama said. Obama also said he was creating a new White House office to deal with cybersecurity that would include a person in charge of ensuring the privacy and civil liberties are protected.

However, Obama’s speech and the report on cybersecurity policy didn’t specifically deal was what role, if any, the National Security Agency would play in protecting civilian cyber networks.

“We spend a great deal of money making the National Security Agency the premier cyber expert group in government," Blair said. "We should be able to use them to the best possible benefit for Americans using their tax dollars, but we need to do it in a way that does not cause problems and give people even the impression that we are spying on them."

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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