Indecision Hampers U.S. Cyber Potential: Ex-CIA Head


The ongoing debate over the role of the U.S. government in cyber-warfare is stalling the military’s efforts to develop and deploy relevant technology, according to the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Philosophical issues are freezing us and making us unable to take steps,” Michael Hayden, a former CIA director and retired Air Force general, told an audience Monday at the 2013 Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md. “We have not yet decided what it is we want our government to do or what it is we will let our government do.”

More coordination and integration is needed between agencies such as Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Cyber Command, Hayden said. The country also must find more qualified candidates for cyber-related jobs, he said.

“This is hard,” Hayden said. “We’re still kind of getting organized. We certainly need more trained people with tech competence.”

The Edward Snowden case has triggered a public uproar and “grand national debate” over government access to online information, Hayden said.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor recently granted temporary asylum in Russia, is accused of leaking information about classified U.S. surveillance programs to news organizations in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

In the aftermath of the scandal, the NSA has skilled workers that remain underutilized, Hayden said.

The global technological landscape is changing, as evidenced by the so-called Arab Spring, in which social media-inspired mass protests and political turmoil rocked countries such as Egypt, Hayden said. Threats exist from nation-states as well as non-state actors, he said.

Cyber-attacks are targeting a rising number of government and corporate institutions, Hayden said, citing recent Iranian-backed intrusions against U.S. banks.

“The Iranians have conducted massive, serial distributed denial of services attacks against American banks — Bank of America, Wells Fargo JP Morgan Chase,” he said. The so-called denial-of-service attacks targeted the bank’s websites, resulting in 3 million hits a minute, up from 15,000 hits a minute, he said.

Cyber espionage can take many forms, including simple effort to steal information such as pin numbers, personal data, intellectual data and trade secrets, Hayden said.

The NSA plans to form 60 teams in a cyber command to address such issues, Hayden said. A third of the teams will work on cyber defense, another third will support networks from a tactical standpoint and another third will be designated “national mission forces” to defend America’s communications and data networks, he said.

“We have to organize this fight in a domain whose characteristics are fairly unfamiliar to us,” Hayden said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • blight_

    The military thinks they should do everything. They should work with the NSA, but let Some Other Government Agency deal with defending the country from cyber threats. In turn, they will focus on killing things In Real Life, and use information from the NSA to help them in doing so…but duplicating work by other government agencies without a plan is a waste of time.

    Unless it’s easier to ram through additional responsibilities for the military through Congress, in which case they may give it to the military. Where is the path of least resistance to standing up cyberattack capability?

  • Bruce

    Is he equating a long-overdue debate over what expectations of privacy civilians should have regarding their online activites with the military/government’s insufficient defence against external cyber attacks? Hard to tell from the limited quotes here but that would seem a bit rich given that up until the Snowden affair they seem to basically have been able to do as they pleased.

  • BozoTheHack

    Sorry, but I work in Cyber Sec / Info Sec…this has nothing to do with what the government is going to bring to the table. This is about the American people. We either want security or we don’t; and, those of you who were shocked that the NSA had some sort of black box program to gather information…really?? However, you have no problem with ad ware that can do basically the same thing. How do I know this? How about the constant calls I get from friends and family about their “virus” problem. Sorry – this war is in the head, not at the keyboard. And we will lose this one as well.

  • SJE

    ““Philosophical issues are freezing us and making us unable to take steps.” Translation:
    the constitution and US rights keep getting in the way of us doing whatever we want

  • Michael Wahrman

    Most of the comments here are badly informed. Of course I see that in most comments sections on controversial topics. For your information, the NSA did not, to the best of my knowledge lie to congress, or flout the laws or any of that. As for comparisons to the Stasi, gentlemen, get a grip. Go learn about the Stasi before you make uninformed and frankly insulting comments like that.

  • dasmang

    dear sir,(( James Massingill ))

    this is a hangout for mil people correct:?
    explaining way things work is joke, oh wait you trollen?