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30 May, 2009 02:59

Cyber Tsar to save America

President Barack Obama is creating a “Cyber Tsar” to safeguard America's cyber space security. The person who's going to take on the job has yet to be named.

He or she will overlook the safety of government and military computer systems which have been subjected to hacker attacks.

Barack Obama says that right now the USA is ill-prepared to deal with any kind of cyber attack. Therefore, the country needs a “cyber superman” to handle such situations.

This person will not only report to the National Security Council, but the National Economic Council as well. Obama stressed the link between the economy and cyber security.

The president said that the Cyber Tsar would not monitor the Internet traffic of private companies. He also mentioned American citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

Still, many are skeptical about the idea. Is this really a national security issue, they ask, or is this a way for the government to spy upon people online, to see what they are watching, reading or sharing?

Will personal privacy be in danger?

Gregory Nojeim, a senior counsel director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, believes that there cannot be enough built in to really forestall the possibility of putting personal privacy in danger.

“The report does a lot on privacy. I don’t want to minimize that, it does a lot on privacy, but the risks are enormous as well,” he said.

Dr. Ivan Eland, an expert from The Independent Institute, notes:

“The government always does this in the name of protecting people but it ends up snooping and overregulating.”

Why now?

According to numerous research reports, the United States would not be able to handle any kind of full-blown Internet crisis. Therefore, the overall situation –government officials explain – dictates the need for this “central commander,” to avoid the cyber analogue of the devastating Katrina hurricane of 2005.

With regard to the number of various governmental agencies in the United States, which do not normally share intelligence data with each other, they would unlikely be able to come up with a concerted common response to the potential threat.

The Obama administration seems to fear such a scenario, saying it would cause a great problem to the country.

Speaking of the economy, President Obama also mentioned that the US looses trillions of dollars because of hackers. He even went further saying that US economic prosperity depends on cyber security.

“Several thousand computers were infected last year by malicious software, Malware. While no sensitive information was compromised, our troops and defense personnel had to give up those external memory devices – thumb drives – changing the way they used their computers every day,” Obama said.

Enemies needed

And in his speech, Obama did point towards Russia.

“And last year we had a glimpse of the future face of war. As Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, cyber attacks crippled Georgian government websites,” Barack Obama said.

Interestingly, Obama chose to mention Georgia although the accusations of cyber attacks have not been confirmed even by the Georgian side.

“The problem with doing something like this is that you have to have a threat, and the threats aren’t well defined. So, I think, China and Russia are some of the countries that are not US allies, they have the capability to do this. So, naturally attention turns to them, and there’s sort of a left over Cold War mentality,” Dr. Ivan Eland said.

Obama is therefore coming up with one more position in a government whose expansion is far from virtual. With all the Tsars he is appointing, it makes one wonder if Obama is building an imperial family.