Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., is confident the Senate will consider his controversial cybersecurity bill within the next month. Whether he has garnered enough support among divided lawmakers is another issue.
“I’m as confident as I can be that this will come up no later than July,” Lieberman told reporters at one of two cyber briefings by the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday. Lieberman echoed intentions by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring cyber legislation to the Senate floor as soon as possible.
The House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), HR 3523, in April, but Lieberman said his bill is the better bill. In a statement Wednesday he urged the Senate to pass the bill and iron out differences with the House.
Under Lieberman’s 2012 Cybersecurity Act, certain companies operating the nation’s electric grid, water supply and other critical systems would have to meet cybersecurity standards approved and enforced by DHS and share with the government all instances when they come under cyber attack.
But Congress is at odds about DHS regulating the security of some privately owned networks and whether the department is capable of taking on that role. The briefing on Capitol Hill was one of several that Lieberman hopes will change people’s perception of DHS and highlight its cyber defense capabilities.
“I want people to be confident that the folks at the department can handle it,” he said.
Mark Weatherford, DHS’ deputy under secretary for cybersecurity, said the department has the capacity and cybersecurity expertise in house as well as partnerships with the Defense Department and National Security Agency. He also refuted claims that DHS’ latest intrusion detection system, Einstein 3, may not be made available to agencies. DHS is considering how to deploy the system, he said.
Officials from DHS’ United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team demonstrated how easily hackers can gain control of a person’s computer through spear phishing — targeted emails crafted to convince an individual to divulge information or open malicious files.
The officials simulated how hackers might gather personal information from social networking sites to design a seemingly credible email. They planted malicious code into an email attachment using an open software tool called BackTrack5. By opening the corrupt file, victims can give attackers complete access to their computer, web camera, documents and other data.
The tool was created for security testing purposes but can also be used to launch intentional attacks.
Spear phishing is the most common form of cyber attacks used against personal computers and critical cyber infrastructure, Lieberman said. He added that his bill would raise the defenses against these types of attacks through information sharing and security requirements. For example, the bill would likely require companies to create more complex passwords.
“Some just have the word password,” he said.
The Senate has yet to begin a formal debate over a proposed postal overhaul, but the jawboning is already well under way.
The latest development: 27 senators led by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote the bill’s sponsors today urging them to consider some “significant improvements.” Such as protection for rural post offices; barring the U.S. Postal Service from a change in delivery service standards that could lead to the closing of up to 252 mail processing plants; and requiring the continuation of six-day-a-week mail delivery for at least another four years. They also call for creation of a blue-ribbon commission that would have six months to devise a new business model for the Postal Service “to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability.”
Apart from Sanders, the signers are all Democrats. Still to be seen is whether the bill’s sponsors, including Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and the committee’s top Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, will consider any of their ideas. But the letter offers telling evidence for why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has yet to bring the bill up for debate weeks after it was placed on the Senate calendar.
Well, chalk one up for congressional bipartisanship: Democrats and Republicans alike agree that lawmakers should have a say in the Obama administration’s government streamlining agenda.
“Reorganization of the executive branch is a shared responsibility,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., the respective chairs of the main House and Senate government oversight committees, said in a Friday letter to Jeffrey Zients, one of the White House management officials leading the effort.
Issa and Lieberman go on to ask for “a tentative timeline for development and implementation of the reorganization proposal, as well as regular updates during the review.” The two also recommend that they be included early on, the better to “contribute collaboratively” to the proposal’s development. Also signing the letter were the two committees’ ranking members, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
More than a month has passed since Obama announced plans to remodel the government in the interests of American economic competitiveness. While the White House has thus far revealed little else about the project, more information will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks, Zients said a few days ago.
Although Lisa Brown, the reorganization’s co-director, had been scheduled to speak tomorrow at a National Academy of Public Administration forum, she will not be appearing because of a scheduling conflict, Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Moira Mack said via email this afternoon.
Asked for comment on the letter, Mack said that Zients and Brown are starting to seek advice and suggestions from Congress, program administrators and relevant stakeholder groups.
FWIW, it may make sense for the White House to give the Hill a stake in the reorganization, given that Obama plans to ask Congress to approve the final product. But it’s also worth remembering—as former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., noted at a hearing last week– that lawmakers can be a hindrance as much as a help.
“Duplicate and overlapping programs frequently exist because of the way we in Congress legislate,” Davis told Issa’s committee. Jurisdiction, he added, “trumps all.”
[Updated Monday at 12:25 p.m. to reflect OMB comment and at 1:45 to note that Brown will not be appearing at National Academy of Public Administration forum.]
Gene Dodaro’s nomination to become the next U.S. comptroller general got a green flag Tuesday from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which approved it on a unanimous voice vote.
The comptroller general runs the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress. Dodaro, a 37-year GAO veteran, has held the job on an acting basis since March 2008; President Obama nominated him for a full 15-year term in September.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said recently that that he hopes to win final Senate confirmation for Dodaro’s nomination before lawmakers end their lame-duck session.
“We in Congress are grateful for his non-partisan leadership at an agency whose fact-based audits and investigations deeply inform our work,” Lieberman said in a news release after Tuesday’s vote. Both he and the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, were part of a ten-member commission that recommended Dodaro to the White House.
After more than two years as acting U.S. Comptroller General–a job that entails leading the Government Accountability Office-Gene Dodaro got the nod today from President Obama for a long-term appointment to the post.
In a release, Obama said he intends to nominate Dodaro, a 37-year GAO veteran, for the position of Comptroller General. Dodaro has held the job on a provisional basis since March 2008; in a statement today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that she, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and a bipartisan congressional commission recommended Dodaro for the 15-year appointment.
“As the comptroller general, Gene Dodaro will continue to uphold the public trust as the leader of the GAO,” Pelosi said. Also praising the nomination was Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will review Dodaro’s nomination as part of the Senate confirmation process.
Lieberman “has always thought Mr. Dodaro was an effective leader at GAO, and a valued adviser to Congress,” a spokeswoman said. “His nearly four decades of experience at GAO more than qualifies him for this key position.”
Don’t expect much to happen in this year’s fast dwindling congressional session, but a bi-partisan group of senators today introduced legislation to bolster the Federal Protective Service, responsible for security at some 9,000 federal buildings.
The bill would push FPS to hire 500 more full-time employees over the next four years, require the agency to do more to ensure the competence of contract guards, and mandate standards for checkpoint detection technologies for explosives and other threats at federal facilities, according to a news release from Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In a sting revealed last year, Government Accountability Office investigators succeeded in bringing bomb-making materials into 10 high-security federal buildings.
Besides Lieberman, the bill’s sponsors are the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, according to the release.
FPS is part of the Department of Homeland Security.