TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Dual-leadership role at NSA and Cyber Command stirs debate

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Washington Post
Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 9:03 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — During suspected Iranian cyberattacks on the websites of commercial banks last year, Gen. Keith Alexander, who simultaneously heads the country's largest electronic spy agency and the military's Cyber Command, proposed a simple solution: Shut off the attacks at their source.

“We had the expertise and could have done something about it,” said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions. “We're sitting on their networks overseas. Why don't we just turn it off?”

But the proposal to send a simple computer “reset” command to the attacking servers was ultimately rejected by National Security Council officials this year because the attacks were not causing enough harm to warrant an offensive response.

The episode shows the willingness — some say eagerness — of Alexander to use his authority to conduct offensive actions to fend off attacks against the private sector.

As he builds out Cyber Command at Fort Meade. Md., and other installations to a fighting force of 6,000 over the next three years, there are fresh questions about the wisdom of so much power residing in one “dual-hatted” official.

“The mashing together of the NSA and Cyber Command has blurred the lines between a military command and a national spy agency,” said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution expert on evolving modes of warfare.

Alexander disagrees. “It's one network,” he said recently. “We all operate on the same network. You create more problems by trying to separate them and have two people fighting over who's in charge (of both missions) than putting it all together. I think our nation benefits from that.”

He said that other countries “do similar things.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Big Bang ‘waves’ go poof under analysis
  2. Internet rules in line for big shift
  3. Secretary of State Kerry says Cuba talks offer chance to improve lives
  4. NASA satellite to track water in soil
  5. Accused Kennedy killer’s casket must go to brother, judge rules
  6. Drivers, return to your car dealers for 2nd airbag fix
  7. Colorado to clarify benefit limits over concern welfare, food stamps used to buy legal pot
  8. Balloonists smash records with trans-Pacific flight
  9. ‘Drink of the Devil’ unites formerly feuding families
  10. Prospective juror in Tsarnaev trial cites sympathy for suspect in Boston Marathon bombing
  11. Hillary Clinton’s charter jet costs scrutinized