Rep. Lieu Presses Mulvaney Over Cyber Brain-Drain

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., is the sponsor of the ENCRYPT Act.

In a Friday letter to President Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., demanded answers about recent departures from the administration of key Federal cybersecurity officials.

Citing an Axios report that 12 senior White House cybersecurity officials have either left or been forced out of their roles, Rep. Lieu stressed the possibility that the White House could be leaving itself vulnerable to possible security compromises.

“While the immediate concern of a potential network breach is paramount, cyber infiltration can also result in a long term serious threat to national security,” Rep. Lieu said in the letter.

The House lawmaker raised specific concerns over what he said was the systematic targeting of the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer (OCISO) staff for removal. Revocation of incentives and reduction of duties, for example, have been used to push OCISO personnel out of their positions, Rep. Lieu asserted.

Further, OCISO is exempt from the Presidential Records Act, which Rep. Lieu says “fits the President’s history of obstructing and hiding transcripts and government business by manipulating internal bureaucratic procedures.”

Rep. Lieu said OCISO was created in 2014 to defend the White House and the Presidential Information Technology Community network from Russian hacking attempts. In his letter, Rep. Lieu expressed concerns that the elimination of key roles from OCISO could lead to a data breach that “would give our adversaries an untold advantage in almost every foreign policy and national security matter.”

The lawmaker asked Mulvaney about staffing plans to replace OCISO officials, evasion of the Presidential Records Act, and how the White House is responding to concerns about cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

The Trump administration’s handling of top-level cybersecurity personnel has been closely watched since former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s elimination of the most senior cybersecurity role in Federal government – the White House cybersecurity coordinator position – in May 2018.

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