The Government is Trying to Get Serious About Cyber as a Foreign Policy Issue

What if they held a hearing and only two senators came?

Sen. Ben Cardin participates in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
Add to Briefcase
Kaveh Waddell
May 14, 2015, 4 p.m.

After a string of high-pro­file In­ter­net at­tacks dir­ec­ted at the U.S. gov­ern­ment and private sec­tor, Con­gress and the ex­ec­ut­ive branch are try­ing to get ser­i­ous about treat­ing cy­ber war­fare as a for­eign policy is­sue—es­pe­cially when it comes to ad­dress­ing threats from China and Rus­sia.

But it’s slow go­ing.

The Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee ad­ded cy­ber­se­cur­ity to the port­fo­lio of one of its sub­pan­els, which had its first hear­ing Thursday. Yet only two mem­bers showed up: Col­or­ado Re­pub­lic­an Cory Gard­ner and Mary­land Demo­crat Ben Cardin, chair­man and rank­ing mem­ber of the Sub­com­mit­tee on East Asia, the Pa­cific, and In­ter­na­tion­al Cy­ber­se­cur­ity Policy, re­spect­ively.

Cy­ber­se­cur­ity has cap­tured the at­ten­tion of Con­gress this ses­sion, tak­ing cen­ter stage in hear­ings and le­gis­la­tion that fo­cus on com­pan­ies’ policies of no­ti­fy­ing cus­tom­ers about data breaches, cy­ber threat in­form­a­tion shar­ing between the gov­ern­ment and private sec­tor, and the value of built-in back­doors on con­sumer devices that would al­low the gov­ern­ment to ac­cess en­cryp­ted com­mu­nic­a­tions on iPhones and oth­er gad­gets.

But the for­eign policy angle hasn’t cap­tured Con­gress’s ima­gin­a­tion just yet.

About an hour in­to the hear­ing, Cardin left for an­oth­er com­mit­tee meet­ing, leav­ing the chair­man out­numbered by the pan­el of wit­nesses.

Mike Ro­gers, who was chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee un­til he left Con­gress this Janu­ary, says cy­ber­se­cur­ity is the miss­ing piece in U.S. de­fense policy. “This is the largest na­tion­al se­cur­ity we face that we have no an­swer to,” Ro­gers said at an event at the Hud­son In­sti­tute on Tues­day. “And can­didly, we’re not win­ning.”

“We are keep­ing pace, maybe, but policy-wise, we’re be­hind this prob­lem,” he said.

Chris­toph­er Paint­er, the State De­part­ment’s point per­son on cy­ber is­sues, said as much at Thursday’s hear­ing.

“While the In­ter­net has been grow­ing and evolving for a few dec­ades now, the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity has only more re­cently be­gun to fully grasp cy­ber is­sues as a for­eign policy pri­or­ity,” Paint­er said in his pre­pared testi­mony.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has treated the In­ter­net as a bat­tle­field for some time. Doc­u­ments re­vealed by former in­tel­li­gence con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden showed that the U.S. hacked in­to Chinese mo­bile phone com­pan­ies, and the U.S. is be­lieved to be be­hind the ad­vanced Stuxnet worm, which tar­geted Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar cent­ri­fuges, al­though it has nev­er ac­know­ledged be­ing in­volved.

And in­creas­ingly, U.S. com­pan­ies and gov­ern­ment have been on the re­ceiv­ing end of In­ter­net at­tacks. A hack at­trib­uted to North Korea that tar­geted Sony Pic­tures re­vealed hun­dreds of thou­sands of private emails, cost the movie stu­dio mil­lions, and drew a re­buke—and pos­sibly re­tali­ation—from the White House. A re­cent in­vest­ig­a­tion found that Rus­si­an hack­ers found their way in­to email sys­tems that be­long to the State De­part­ment and White House. And a Chinese cy­ber weapon called “Great Can­non” tar­geted a U.S. com­pany that was host­ing soft­ware used by dis­sid­ents in China.

“When it comes to the for­eign policy im­plic­a­tions of cy­ber is­sues, it is im­port­ant to be­gin with the re­cog­ni­tion that this sub­com­mit­tee and the State De­part­ment are work­ing in a still-nas­cent policy space,” Paint­er said.

As gov­ern­ment works to fill that space, Cardin called on an ex­pan­sion of pub­lic-private col­lab­or­a­tion, and poin­ted to pro­posed in­form­a­tion-shar­ing le­gis­la­tion as an ex­ample.

“Gov­ern­ment can­not do this alone. We have no choice but to work closely with the private sec­tor,” Cardin said Thursday.

Obama last month an­nounced an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der that would al­low the U.S. to re­spond to cy­ber at­tacks with fin­an­cial sanc­tions. “Cy­ber­threats pose one of the most ser­i­ous eco­nom­ic and na­tion­al se­cur­ity chal­lenges to the United States, and my ad­min­is­tra­tion is pur­su­ing a com­pre­hens­ive strategy to con­front them,” Obama said then.

Mean­while, the State De­part­ment has been ap­ply­ing its dip­lo­mat­ic ex­pert­ise to the cy­ber­world, where it’s been try­ing to get Amer­ic­an al­lies to work to­geth­er and with the U.S. to de­vel­op a set of “norms” to gov­ern how coun­tries should act on the In­ter­net, Paint­er said Thursday. The U.S. has en­gaged in “con­fid­ence-build­ing meas­ures” over cy­ber is­sues to re­duce the pos­sib­il­ity of on­line con­flict.

James Lewis, dir­ect­or of the tech­no­logy pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Stra­tegic and In­ter­na­tion­al Stud­ies and an­oth­er wit­ness on Thursday’s pan­el, wel­comed the Sen­ate sub­com­mit­tee to the fray.

“Every­one and their dog is do­ing cy­ber­se­cur­ity, and I guess that’s a good thing,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
BELIEVED RESPONSIBLE FOR AGENTS’ DEATHS
Ex-CIA Officer Arrested for Assisting China
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A former C.I.A. officer suspected of helping China identify the agency’s informants in that country has been arrested, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. Many of the informants were killed in a systematic dismantling of the C.I.A.’s spy network in China starting in 2010 that was one of the American government’s worst intelligence failures in recent years, several former intelligence officials have said. The arrest of the former agent, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, capped an intense F.B.I. investigation that began around 2012 after the C.I.A. began losing its informants in China."

Source:
ZINKE REFUSED TO MEET WITH THEM
Park Service Panel Resigns En Masse
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit Monday night out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration."

Source:
WOULD ALSO DELAY OBAMACARE TAXES
GOP Leaders Dangle CHIP Fix to Avert Shutdown
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."

Source:
NO DACA DEAL = NO SPENDING DEAL?
With Deadline Approaching, Lawmakers Sounding Notes of Pessimism
14 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.

Source:
WON’T SAY WHETHER NORWAY IS PREDOMINATELY WHITE
Nielsen Defends Trump Before Senate Judiciary
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen confirmed that President Trump used 'tough language' in an Oval Office meeting last week over immigration policy, but she said she did not hear him describe some African countries and Haiti as 'shithole countries,' as has been reported." When pressed she, also said she "didn't know" whether Norway was a predominately white country.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login