Obama to Name Cyber Czar This Week

President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will create a “cyber czar” later this week, according to a Washington Post story.

The post will entail a senior White House official who will execute a broad mandate to develop national-level strategy to protect critical public and private computer networks, according to officials briefed on the plan.

The new adviser will have the broadest, most comprehensive mandate ever granted to such an official and will probably sit on the National Security Council, and will also probably report to the national security adviser as well as the senior White House economic adviser, according to anonymous sources.

The Obama administration plans to coincide the announcement with the long-awaited release of a 40-page report evaluating the government’s cybersecurity initiatives and policies. The report is intended to outline a “strategic vision,” and define the issues the new adviser must address, but will not detail the specifics of the government’s plan of action, administration officials reported last month.

“[Cybersecurity] is vitally important, and the government needs to be coordinated on this,” said a White House official Friday, speaking anonymously. “The report gives conclusions and next steps. It’s trying to steer us in the right direction.”

The document will not address the specific role the National Security Agency will play in protecting private-sector data, an issue of key concern in political circles, and experts say redress of civil-liberty concerns raised by this question requires a full and open debate concerning the government’s jurisdiction over private networks. The White House will serve in an oversight capacity, coordinating the efforts of government agencies and private contractors, and will not assume direct operational control of its mission to secure America’s networks from infiltration.

Melissa Hathaway, Possible Cyber Czar
Melissa Hathaway

The Washington rumor mill has floated several possible names to fill the proposed position, including Melissa Hathaway, author of a 60-day review of federal cyber policy that provided the basis for the soon-to-be released report. During the review, Hathaway’s team conducted dozens of meetings with industry, academic, and civil liberties group representatives.

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