Cyber Expert Helping Iranian Exiles Find a Home

Jane Holl Lute, former deputy secretary of Homeland Security, was appointed by the U.N. secretary general.

Former Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Jane Holl Lute is a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq, April 2014. Here she testifies during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee March 21, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to get a progress report on the management of the Department of Homeland Security 10 years after its creation. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
April 24, 2014, 8 a.m.

Some 2,700 Ir­a­ni­an ex­iles are search­ing for a home, and Jane Holl Lute is de­term­ined to help them find one.

“It’s an un­ten­able situ­ation,” said Lute of Camp Hur­riya, north­east of Bagh­dad In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port, which houses former mem­bers of the People’s Mu­ja­hed­in of Ir­an. “They’re not wel­come in Ir­aq.”

In a rare in­ter­view, Lute spoke of the plight of Camp Hur­riya res­id­ents, who came to Ir­aq in the late 1980s at the in­vit­a­tion of Sad­dam Hus­sein to fight against the Ir­a­ni­an gov­ern­ment. Be­fore com­ing to Camp Hur­riya, the res­id­ents were housed at Camp Ashraf, about 25 miles north of Bagh­dad. Dur­ing the Ir­aq War, the one-time mil­it­ants reached an agree­ment with the U.S. gov­ern­ment un­der which they would sur­render their weapons.

Since tak­ing over in Janu­ary as a spe­cial ad­viser to United Na­tions Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon for the re­lo­ca­tion of Camp Hur­riya res­id­ents out­side of Ir­aq, Lute has shuttled between her home in North­ern Vir­gin­ia and the be­lea­guered en­camp­ment. She has also met with of­fi­cials from the European Uni­on and be­seeched rep­res­ent­at­ives of for­eign gov­ern­ments to take in camp res­id­ents.

A few hun­dred ex­iles have been re­lo­cated, but most re­main un­der siege at Camp Hur­riya, a de­com­mis­sioned U.S. mil­it­ary base. In Decem­ber, a num­ber of rock­ets were fired at the camp, killing three and wound­ing scores of oth­ers. At the time, the State De­part­ment con­demned the rock­et at­tack and re­it­er­ated the need for “a per­man­ent and safe loc­a­tion out­side of Ir­aq” for camp res­id­ents.

When not im­plor­ing coun­tries in Europe and else­where to join in the re­lo­ca­tion ef­fort, Lute pon­ders In­ter­net se­cur­ity as pres­id­ent and CEO of the Ar­ling­ton, Va.-based Coun­cil on Cy­ber­Se­cur­ity, which was es­tab­lished last year. The coun­cil is per­haps best known as the de­veloper of the “Top 20 Crit­ic­al Se­cur­ity Con­trols,” which it de­scribes as “a re­com­men­ded set of ac­tions for cy­ber­de­fense that provide spe­cif­ic and ac­tion­able ways to thwart the most per­vas­ive at­tacks.” Lute, who fo­cused on cy­ber­se­cur­ity while serving as a seni­or of­fi­cial in the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment, likens this suite of con­trols to “ba­sic cy­be­rhy­giene.”

“When you’re driv­ing your car, you pro­tect your pas­sen­gers with seat belts, safety glass, and an­ti­lock brakes,” she said. “In cy­ber­space, the equi­val­ent is these se­cur­ity con­trols. By tak­ing four or five steps — like put­ting in place a sys­tem that al­lows you to de­tect vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies and patch them with­in 48 hours — you can elim­in­ate 80 to 90 per­cent of known cy­ber­at­tacks.”

Lute, 57, has twice be­fore served with the U.N.: as as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary gen­er­al for peace-build­ing sup­port and as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary gen­er­al for mis­sion sup­port in the De­part­ment of Peace­keep­ing Op­er­a­tions. Be­fore join­ing the Coun­cil on Cy­ber­Se­cur­ity, she was deputy Home­land Se­cur­ity sec­ret­ary. Lute has also served as ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent and COO of the United Na­tions Found­a­tion and on the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil un­der Pres­id­ents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clin­ton.

Lute holds a law de­gree from Geor­getown Uni­versity and a doc­tor­ate in polit­ic­al sci­ence from Stan­ford Uni­versity. She is mar­ried to Douglas E. Lute, the U.S. am­bas­sad­or to the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­iz­a­tion.

As for Camp Hur­riya, Lute is res­ol­utely op­tim­ist­ic.

“The United Na­tions thinks that there is an op­por­tun­ity with the cre­ation of this of­fice, the es­tab­lish­ment of a trust fund, and an emer­ging con­sensus for an ac­cel­er­ated res­ol­u­tion to this is­sue,” she said. “We’re go­ing to lend our best ef­forts to see if we can do just that.

“Every­one is aware that the se­cur­ity situ­ation in Ir­aq is a pre­cari­ous one. The res­id­ents who are in this camp need to get on with their lives.”

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