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Department of Homeland Security cast in privacy role

As Bush ditches plans to guide business on security

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The Bush administration has pared back the number of government initiatives on computer security in revised plans that give more responsibility the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier proposals to consult regularly with privacy experts on the civil liberties ramification of security plans have also been dropped, AP via reports today.

Instead, the Homeland Security Department will include a privacy officer charged with balancing "privacy and civil liberties concerns" in developing security plans. An ironic position given the Homeland Security Department's leading role in plans to build the most comprehensive Net surveillance system yet created.

AP has obtained leaked drafts of Bush administration plans that show the number of security proposals scald back from 86 to 49. Gone are proposals to provide government guidance for US companies on improving security, ditched as ideologically unsound for an administration naturally inclined to oppose wider government regulation on principle.

Government should instead focus on getting its own house on in order first rather than telling business what to do, the new thinking suggests.

"Governments can lead by example in cyberspace security," the draft National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace plan states.

However the plan isn't altogether inward looking.

The Homeland Security Department is to be given the role of testing computer systems controlling America's utilities to ensure they are robustly defended from possible Internet attack. Meanwhile the Defence Department is given explicit permission to strike back in kind if the US if ever attacked in cyberspace.

Forget for a minute such fears are frequently overstated: the point is that the Defence Department is been given a clear mandate to wage Cyber Warfare (and justification to tap Congress for funds to equip itself for war on the Net).

President Bush is expected to approve the plan and begin implementing its proposals within the next few weeks, according to wire reports. ®

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