Intelligence Leaders Urge Congress to Act on Cyber Laws

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2012 — The threat to U.S.-based com­put­er net­works is one of the country’s most press­ing secu­ri­ty prob­lems, and Con­gress needs to act on it soon, the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence told a con­gres­sion­al pan­el today.

James R. Clap­per Jr. said he and all of the U.S. intel­li­gence lead­er­ship agree the Unit­ed States is in a type of cyber Cold War, los­ing some $300 bil­lion annu­al­ly to cyber-based cor­po­rate espi­onage, and sus­tain­ing dai­ly intru­sions against pub­lic sys­tems con­trol­ling every­thing from major defense weapons sys­tems and pub­lic air traf­fic to elec­tric­i­ty and bank­ing.

Clap­per was joined by CIA Direc­tor David H. Petraeus, Defense Intel­li­gence Agency Direc­tor Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. and FBI Direc­tor Robert S. Mueller for a House Select Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing on world­wide threats. He urged law­mak­ers to pass a bill that forces intel­li­gence shar­ing between the gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor, such as the Defense Indus­tri­al Base pilot pro­gram that then-Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III launched last year.

“It’s clear from all that we’ve said – and I hope pred­i­ca­tions about mass attacks don’t become a self-ful­fill­ing proph­esy – but we all rec­og­nize we need to do some­thing,” he said.

Clap­per also urged Con­gress to reau­tho­rize the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act, which he called cru­cial to intel­li­gence gath­er­ing. It expires this year.

The direc­tor said he fore­sees a cyber envi­ron­ment in which tech­nolo­gies con­tin­ue to be field­ed before effec­tive secu­ri­ty can be put in place. Among the great­est chal­lenges in cyber secu­ri­ty, he added, are know­ing the per­pe­tra­tor of a cyber attack in real time and capa­bil­i­ties gaps in the cyber sup­ply chain – the entire set of key actors involved in the cyber infra­struc­ture.

Mueller not­ed that the Nation­al Cyber Task Force includes 20 U.S. agen­cies, “so when a major intru­sion hap­pens, we’re all at the table.” The “break­ing down of stovepipes” and shar­ing infor­ma­tion in cyber secu­ri­ty “is as impor­tant now as it was before 9/11,” he added.

The FBI direc­tor told the pan­el that 47 states have dif­fer­ent report­ing require­ments for cyber attacks, and the pri­vate sec­tor doesn’t have to report them at all. “If they’re not report­ed, we can’t pre­vent the next one from hap­pen­ing,” he said.

Mueller said the cyber threat is grow­ing and is impor­tant to address. “I do believe cyber threats will equal or sur­pass the threat from ter­ror­ism in the near future,” he said.

Clap­per agreed. “We all rec­og­nize this as a pro­found threat to this coun­try, to its future, to its econ­o­my, to its very being,” he said. “We all rec­og­nize it, and we are com­mit­ted to doing our best in defend­ing the coun­try.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)