On November 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee took up the subject of cyber security. An FBI witness said his organization considers “the cyber threat to our nation to be one of the greatest concerns of the twenty-first century.” He later said that cyber-based attacks and high tech crime were the FBI’s highest criminal priority.

Numerous witnesses from the present and previous Administration testified to the dangers, the steps that needed to be taken and the plans to fix the problems. Almost all admitted that there was much that needed to be done, and that they were just getting started. They also made a call for new and updated laws as well as authorities to help them fight the threats we face today.

Terrorism obviously came up. While most felt that the leading terrorist groups do not have a robust cyber capability today, they want it and are actively seeking to obtain it. It was also noted that this was probably easier for them to accomplish than their desire for WMD. In either case, everyone believed that unlike some nation states that have the cyber capability to attack us now but are deterred by our interconnected systems and economies, terrorists will use this capability as soon as they get it and have the opportunity.

Several witnesses discussed the ongoing debates in the Administration over issues such as privacy, civil liberties and how to provide cyber security without adversely affecting them. Few new points were raised in the discussion. Even the calls for a new public/private-sector partnership have all been heard before. They are the right points; we just need to act on them.

One hopes the Obama Administration will finally begin to leverage all the efforts, ideas and energy that continue to build in this space. Industry wants to help, law enforcement needs to act and the Defense/Intel communities are concerned with our present abilities. Give these groups the leadership they need Mr. President. Release them, with a valid vision to serve the Nation, and we will all be amazed at what they might provide.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More