White House prepares Executive Order to ‘protect the country’ from Cyberattacks
September 7, 2012
By JENNIFER MARTINEZ | THE HILL | SEPTEMBER 7, 2012
The White House is circulating a draft of an executive order aimed at protecting the country from cyberattacks, The Hill has learned.
The draft proposal, which has been sent to relevant federal agencies for feedback, is a clear sign that the administration is resolved to take action on cybersecurity even as Congress remains gridlocked on legislation that would address the threat.
The draft executive order would establish a voluntary program where companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government, according to two people familiar with the document.
The concept builds off of a section in the cybersecurity bill from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that was blocked last month by Senate Republicans, who called it a backdoor to new regulations.
The draft has undergone multiple revisions and is brief, spanning no more than five pages. It is still being worked on and is subject to change, the people familiar with the draft stressed.
It’s also unclear whether the final product will get the president’s approval to move forward.
A new draft of the executive order is expected to be shared with agencies next week.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan first floated the idea of an executive order in a speech a few days after the Senate bill failed. He said the White House would consider taking action on the executive level to ensure key infrastructure such as the power grid, water supply and transportation networks are secure.
The momentum for cybersecurity legislation in Congress weakened after Lieberman’s bill failed to clear the Senate. Now industry groups and Congress are watching the White House for clues about what might be included in a executive order on cybersecurity.
A spokeswoman for the White House declined to comment on whether a draft for a executive order was being circulated, but said it is one of the options the administration is weighing.