Harris Cybersecurity Power Lunch – National Press Club

Written by SoVaSec on June 29th, 2009

SoVaSec goes to Washington

The Harris corporation held a “Cybersecurity Power Lunch” at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The power lunch featured a panel consisting of Tom Davis, Dale Meyerrose, and James Bamford.

First I’d like to thank Harris corporation for hosting the panel, and providing the excellent box lunch and sparkling water.

The stated purpose of the event was to discuss what the challenges of the cyberczar in his first one hundred days. The panel members that were present were to offer the executive, legislative, and media viewpoints on the topic. However General Meyerrose and Congressman Davis are both working for private industries which stand to profit from hyping cyber threats. So in essence there was only the intelligence industry and the media were represented.

Tom Davis  “undefeated and unindicted”

Davis joked about there being no senate confirmation for the cyberczar saying “once they get named they wont have to worry about if they paid their taxes or not”, referencing the number of politicians with unpaid taxes. He also stated “one thing I would note in this town is that if there is a crisis then things can move pretty quickly”. This seems to be a common mindset, using a perceived crisis to accomplish some goal, using the same Hegelian dialectic of problem reaction solution. Davis mentions a ‘cyber pearl harbor’ this perceived crisis is the problem for which a predictable reaction will facilitate an already prepared solution. In this case the threat of cyberterrorisim hyped to the public will justify the continued defense spending. This spending will go to corporations who pay Mr. Meyerrose and Mr. Davis to go on national press tours such as this one.

James Bamford “once information comes into the United States, or goes through the United States, the NSA plays a role”
“the problem is having deep packet inspection into not only foreign communications, but domestic communications as well”

Mr. Bamford made an accurate prediction stating the director of the NSA would be put in charge of CyberCommand, which happened in the recently with the appointment of Lt. Keith Alexander. Bamford expressed his concern a number of times in regards to the NSA’s abuse of power.  His solution was the creation a powerful role for the cyberczar. This position would be above the NSA and other organizations, including privacy advocates.  Mr. Bamford also noted the media hype which surrounds the terms “cyber” and terrorism”

Dale Meyerrose
“were going to look at offensive and defensive differently, its going to be desirable and undesirable
outcomes….stealth will replace the ideas of
offense and defense”

General Meyerrose was able to speak at length and say absolutely nothing, a testament to his career in Washington. As the former Chief Information Officer to the Director of National Intelligence, he is quite skilled at revealing nothing of value when questioned, though near the end of the event he allowed himself to pontificate for just a moment. 

Has cyber so fundamentally changed our culture, and the nature of how we can rule / legislate ourselves that we need another Hoover commission, or Hoover like commission to reorganize the entire executive branch.

The idea is that, in the middle of the 20th century it became obvious that the agrarian setup of particularly the executive arm of the government, was no longer able to deal with the industrial jet age governing of the country.

Has cyber fundamentally changed that that we need another Hoover like commission, and if not when will that happen?

When we go past the elbow in the curve, when will we realize that we should have done that last year or the year before?

I suppose it is no surprise that the attending press were asking non-technical questions. When Davis was asked directly if he had been interviewed for the position for cyberczar he began to literally squirm in his seat, fondling items on the table in front of him like a poker player with a bad tell. Finally he mumbled something about the question being evasive and not understanding it.   I think this illuminates my overall impression of the event. Harris got its self promotion, and the media got their big cyber stories for the week. 

There were several questions I had prepared, but given the format of the event did not have a chance to ask.  After I asked my initial question to Meyerrose regarding the supply chain vulnerabilities, his communication director seemed to be in a hurry to relieve me of the microphone.  I did manage to get off one more question to Mr. Bamford regarding the possibility of John Poindexter reappearing to have a show on FOX called ‘cyber-war stories’ with his old pal Ollie North.  Had Davis not weaseled out of the rest of the event, I intended to ask about his opinion of foreign financiers owning intelligence consultants, such as the Carlyle Group’s recent purchase of Booz Allen Hamilton.  Meyerrose mentioned the blurring of the line between the domestic and foreign paradigm.  Who could benefit more from this then the NSA having legal international wiretapping abilities, and his corporation who provides international communications technology? 

In closing, a question I was asked to relay to Mr. Davis:

What civilian assets should be federalized, how do they really think we should prioritize protection?”


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