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Bush's Cyber Security Force Loses Another One

The revolving door at the federal government's highest cyber security level took another turn Tuesday with the resignation of Robert Liscouski, the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary for infrastructure protection.

The resignation comes just four months after Amit Yoran resigned from his post as director of the DHS' National Cyber Security Division (NCSD). Yoran was reportedly frustrated over a lack of focus on computer security issues within the administration.

Robert P. Liscouski
Robert P. Liscouski
Source: DHS.gov

DHS Secretary Tom Ridge appointed Liscouski, the former director of information assurance for Coca-Cola, to his position in March 2003. His responsibilities included identifying critical infrastructures and proposing protective measures. Liscouski issued no statement on his resignation and was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Ridge issued a statement thanking Liscouski for his service and said he "provided a solid foundation for protecting our nation's critical infrastructure."

Liscouski's resignation is the latest in a series of high-profile turnovers within the Bush administration's cyber security personnel. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush dismantled a special cyber security board that reported directly to the White House and transferred the board's duties and responsibilities to the DHS.

The Bush administration also reviewed the nation's critical infrastructure and decided it could not improve security alone, considering 85 percent is owned by the private sector. In February 2003, the Bush administration officially released its National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, which calls for a voluntary partnership between the public and private sectors to share security intelligence, reduce vulnerabilities and deter malicious entities.

Critics have attacked the plan for being too loosely based and too dependent on private enterprise without enough checks and balances. IT officials in the private sector, in particular, have called for a greater emphasis on cyber security.

Richard Clarke, the White House's director of the board, refused to head the new organization created at the DHS, saying there would be too many bureaucratic layers between him and Ridge. Howard Schmidt, Clarke's deputy on the White House board, resigned in May 2003 to become the chief information security officer for eBay.

Clarke later testified before Congress that the DHS was placing infrastructure concerns over security issues and that the Bush administration's IT security initiatives were suffering from a lack of leadership and resources. (However, in a 2002 interview that was leaked by Fox News, Clarke also praised the Bush administration's homeland security efforts.)

Ridge appointed Yoran as director of the NCSD in September 2003. Yoran was a co-founder of Riptech, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm that focused on government cyber security. In July 2002, Symantec bought Riptech for $145 million, and Yoran stayed on as vice president for managed security services.

The NCSD has an $80 million budget and 60 employees. Its primary responsibilities include conducting cyberspace analysis, issuing alerts and warnings, improving information sharing, responding to major incidents and aiding in national-level recovery efforts. With Yoran at the helm, the NCSD began a program that allowed subscribers to receive e-mails about virus outbreaks and proper responses to the attacks.