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August 4, 2009

US acting cyber tsar in shock step down

Pressure mounts on White House over cyber security

By CBR Staff Writer

President Obama has lost the acting cyber tsar he appointed just six months ago to head his new White House office of cybersecurity.

According to media reports in the US press this morning, Melissa Hathaway has resigned for personal reasons. The top cybersecurity aide apparently plans to return to the private sector.

Hathaway was a former consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. She came in as a cyber coordination executive for the director of national intelligence. 

It was widely expected that she would eventually be named as Assistant to the President for Cyberspace, a position recommended when the Center for Strategic and International Studies commission said Obama needed create a National Office for Cyberspace, headed by a direct report.

Hathaway has chaired the National Cyber Study Group (NCSG), a senior-level inter-agency body and is recognised as being instrumental in developing the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI).

She was also a top aide to President Bush and helped develop that administration’s cybersecurity initiative. Those close ties to the Bush administration may have put paid to any aspirations Hathaway once had for the top job.

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One former government official apparently said that 30 people have been interviewed for the position. Names in the frame supposedly include former White House computer security adviser and eBay CSO Howard Schmidt, and homeland security expert Paul Kurtz. 

Reportedly Hathaway had become dismayed by the slow pace of the appointment process and had not felt empowered enough to drive through some of the changes she had expected to have been made.

Breaking the story, The Wall Steet Journal noted that ‘the resignation highlights the difficulty the White House has had following through on its cybersecurity effort.’ This is despite US intelligence officials growing increasingly concerned about Chinese and Russian cyberspies surveilling American infrastructure and military networks.

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