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[] Aufruhr im Kongress wg. FOIA-Ausnahmen zu Cybersecurity,

Thomas Greene hat sich offenbar praechtig amuesiert, als Ron Dick von
der Abgeordneten Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) gegrillt wurde.

Congress blasts Feds on cyber-terror FOIA games

By Thomas C Greene in Washington
Posted: 26/07/2002 at 07:10 GMT

There was a fabulous explosion Wednesday during an otherwise typical 
cyberterror dog-and-pony show on the Hill when House Government Reform 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (Democrat, Illinois) lost 
her composure during a discussion of new Freedom of Information Act 
(FOIA) modifications proposed by the GB Junior Administration as part of
its  Homeland Defense initiative.

After a couple of hours filled with warnings about widespread
infrastructure  vulnerabilities and exploitable bugs in numerous control
systems, it came time  for Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office
(CIAO) Director John Tritak and  National Infrastructure Protection
Center (NIPC) Director Ronald Dick to  make the pitch for a
controversial exemption from the FOIA applying to all  government
records submitted by the industry.

The government has been disappointed in the amount of critical
information  flowing to it from the Information Sharing and Analysis
Centers (ISACs)  which the Clinton Administration set up for
private-sector vulnerability  shoptalk. Industry fears that government
records of their incompetence could  end up in the hands of outraged
citizens and journalists, leading to an  unfortunate tarnishing of the
sterling reputations enjoyed by the nation's  mega-corporations.

Uncle Sam would like to be told more about vulnerabilities and risks
and  terrorist targets in the real world out there, and is perfectly
willing to gut the  FOIA if that's what it takes to get brought up to

Schakowsky just about had a fit on hearing this. Why, she wondered, if
the  terrorist threat is as real as the government claims, are we
kissing big business'  ass and essentially pleading with them to
cooperate? Why not just force  them?

"This is a time of a war on terrorism; we're calling on individuals and 
businesses to be patriotic," she said. "Because this is so critical to
our national  security, we could simply require this rather than pander
to the desires of  businesses to keep information secret, an item that
has been on their agenda  for many years."

"It astounds me that at a moment in history when transparency in
business is in  the headlines every day -- the need for us to know what
is going on in our  private sector, which has deprived many of our
citizens of their ability to  retire, and employees of their retirement
plans, set the stock market diving  because of this lack of
transparency, cooking the books -- that now we want  to offer...not a
narrowly-constructed exemption, but a loophole big enough  drive any
corporation and its secrets through," she sputtered.

"If a company wants to protect information from public view, they can
dump it  into the Department of Homeland Security and say, 'we don't
want anyone to  have access to it because it's critical information,'
yet it could be something  that communities need to know."

She wanted to know if the government had given businesses any assistance
in  dealing with sensitive data under the FOIA as it exists.

NIPC Director Ronald Dick rushed to defend the proposed amendments. "If 
there is a request for [trade secrets information] the industry would
have to  come forward and discuss in court what it had done to protect
that  information," he explained. "So therefore they would have to go
into court and  prove, I assume beyond some standard, that they had
adequately protected it  in the first place."

That was a bit of a slip, that bit about how the new FOIA will
essentially  protect information the companies haven't bothered to
protect for themselves.  But the government often rewards incompetence,
so it's hardly surprising.

"We're talking about information that the private sector believes is
sensitive  and are concerned about it being disclosed," Dick continued.
"And they have  questions as to whether the government can adequately
protect it. What we're  recommending is not some broad loophole, but a
measured response in the  language that will provide some of the
assurances that will provide better  information sharing."

Schakowsky read from the Junior Administration's proposed language, 
making it clear that Uncle Sam is prepared to exempt from public
knowledge  absolutely anything that relates to infrastructure
vulnerabilities in any way.

Asked why such broad language should be needed, Dick made the mistake
of  answering, "the private sector is concerned that if they share
[vulnerability  information] then it will become public, and therefore
the bad guys will know  it and attack them."

Schakowsky tore into the logical flaw. "So they believe that if they
provide  information that's critical to terrorists, this government
under its current laws is  just going to let that information out," she
said sarcastically. "It is precisely for  that reason that the existing
exemptions were crafted."

Dick never quite replied to that one. It's obvious to any fool that the 
government would never willingly release any such information. The
private  sector is of course solely concerned with embarrassing
revelations of how  badly they're managing their security defenses, and
the liabilities their  publication would invite.

Schakowsky knows that Uncle Sam needs and desperately wants this data 
and will bend over backwards to coax it from business while steamrolling
the  rights of citizens to sue for it, regardless of public interests
buried along the  way. She had a couple of good rants; and I have to say
it was refreshing to  see a Member of Congress actually understand
something for a change. But  the government rationale is fairly well
accepted on the Hill, and these days the  word 'terror' works absolute
magic in all political negotiations. It looks like the  FOIA is set
become another casualty of the war on terror.

Which is no surprise, really. As occasional Reg contributor George
Smith  points out, Cyberwar is Hell.

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