The Obama administration is moving ahead with plans to name a cybersecurity czar, and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander is the leading candidate for the post, Inside the Ring has learned.
According to U.S. government officials, President Obama plans to promote Gen. Alexander to four-star rank and give him wideranging authority to implement the new Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.
Word of Gen. Alexander’s likely appointment comes as the Department of Homeland Security’s senior official in charge of cybersecurity, Rod A. Beckstrom, resigned last week to protest what he said was excessive NSA and military influence over cybersecurity policies.
The electronic intelligencegathering NSA is one of the least public but most effective of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. Mostly in secret, NSA has been leading U.S. government efforts to secure computer and other information networks and to block foreign electronic attacks on U.S. systems, which for the Pentagon number tens of thousands of electronic attempts every day.
The agency during the past several months has begun receiving tens of millions of dollars in Pentagon funds under the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), said defense officials familiar with the program.
Dennis C. Blair, the retired admiral who is director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 10 that the Obama administration is reviewing the security initiative “to ensure it is consistent with its own cybersecurity policy.”
Mr. Blair said a number of nations, including Russia and China, have technical cyberwarfare capabilities that can disrupt elements of the U.S. information infrastructure as well as gather intelligence. Terrorist and criminal groups also conduct cyberattacks.
“To be sure, significant work remains in order to protect, defend and respond to the cyberthreat in a manner that markedly improves our nation’s overall security,” Mr. Blair said.
The initiative was launched in January 2008 and seeks to deal with cybersecurity threats, both current and future, and is working with private-sector companies to create an “environment that no longer favors cyberintruders over defenders,” Mr. Blair said.
“The CNCI includes defensive, offensive, education, research and development, and counterintelligence elements while remaining sensitive throughout to the requirements of protecting the privacy rights and civil liberties of U.S. citizens,” Mr. Blair said. He noted that the initiative has made “considerable progress” in identifying the threat and in developing solutions.
White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer declined to comment on Gen. Alexander’s candidacy for the cyber-czar post. the basis for the Navy’s decision on March 10 to reclassify Michael “Scott” Speicher as missing in action and no longer missing-captured, states that the action followed a review of captured Iraqi documents and an extensive search of Iraq for the pilot, shot down in 1991.
The March 4 report is based on a classified assessment and states that “based on all available intelligence, the [intelligence community] assesses that Capt. Speicher died shortly after his aircraft was shot down.”
“The IC does not know the location of his remains,” the report states. “In the 18 years since Capt. Speicher was shot down, the U.S. government has found no credible information to indicate what happened to him after he ejected from his aircraft.”
The report produced by the Intelligence Community POW/MIA Analytic Cell states that its judgment was based on intelligence, knowledge of Iraqi prisoner handling under Saddam Hussein and U.S. government efforts to account for Capt. Speicher since 1991.
More than 1.6 million Iraqi government documents were reviewed.
“Documents were found accounting for the capture, imprisonment, and release of all other coalition prisoners of war and the recovery and return of coalition individuals killed in action. No documents on Capt. Speicher have been found,” the report says.
The report also says intelli- gence sources that claimed the pilot was alive before the 2003 Iraq war were discredited and were either “fabricated” or “embellished” information or mistakenly identified someone else as Capt. Speicher.
Another factor in the recent decision was that the remnants of the Saddam regime made no effort to exploit Capt. Speicher after the 2003 U.S. invasion to negotiate the release of prisoners, including Saddam.
Also, Iraqi facilities were searched throughout the country, and no evidence was found that Capt. Speicher was kept at any facilities.
“U.S. investigators have interviewed and debriefed hundreds of Iraqi government, military, and intelligence officials, including Saddam Hussein,” the report says. “All have denied any knowledge of Capt. Speicher being captured or held prisoner by the Saddam government.”
Iraq’s supply of remains in 1991 that were found not to be those of Capt. Speicher were the result of Iraqis attempting to conceal an unrelated administrative error, the report says.
Forensic and handwriting analysis of the initials “MSS” found on a Baghdad prison wall and on an I-beam in a carport near Tikrit were “not linked to Capt. Speicher,” the report says.
The president has announced plans to close within a year the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the home of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and about 240 other terrorist suspects.
The source, who asked not to be named because the reorganization is not complete, said the next deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs would focus on battlefield detention and internment centers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The office is within the domain of Michele A. Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy. She is heading a review of her organization.
The Pentagon created the detainee office in 2004, when Donald H. Rumsfeld was defense secretary, as the Guantanamo prison came under increasing assault from human rights groups and various foreign governments.
Charles “Cully” Stimpson, the second deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, resigned in 2007 after he was criticized for questioning the motives and financial ties of lawyers defending terrorist suspects. The post is vacant.
The position had led a joint committee within the Pentagon that handled issues such as whom to release back to their home country. At its peak, the prison held nearly 800 detainees, most captured in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Phillip Carter, a former Army
National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander (second from left) is seen with thenPresident George W. Bush after attending a closed door intelligence briefing along with then-Vice President Dick Cheney (left) and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell (right).