Top White House Cyber Official Resigns Due to Delays of Appointment

ABC News' Jason Ryan reports: White House cybersecurity czar Melissa Hathaway decided to resign Monday from her post as the White House's top official overseeing computer security issues on the eve of a major global cybersecurity conference being sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service.

Hathaway's resignation comes after numerous delays in appointing a top cybersecurity coordinator even though administration officials list cybersecurity as a top national security threat.

Hathaway had served as cybersecurity chief at the National Security Council and oversaw the Obama administration's 60-day review of computer security policies and threats. A major recommendation of the review was to appoint a top official responsible for coordinating the US cybersecurity policies and activities between numerous government agencies spearheaded by DHS, Secret Service, DOD, and the FBI. The initial review conducted by Hathaway determined that the NSC should be responsible for managing the cyber threat but that reporting structure was undercut when White House Economic Adviser Larry Summers demanded that the coordinator also report to the National Economic Council.

"I'm sorry to see that she resigned." said Andy Purdy the former director of DHS' National Cyber Security Division/US-CERT. Purdy, who now runs computer consultancy DRA Enterprises, said it was unclear what was occurring in the White House with the delays but added, "I'm hoping that if there are turf issues they can resolve those."

In an interview with the Washington Post, Hathaway said, "I wasn't willing to continue to wait any longer, because I'm not empowered right now to continue to drive the change...I've concluded that I can do more now from a different role."

At the Global Cybersecurity Conference on Tuesday DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said much work is needed to be done to improve and protect US and global networks from hackers and cyber-criminals.

"When I came into the Department we were not organized the way we should be," she said. "We've been living in cybersecurity 1.0...and we need to be at cybersecurity 3.0."

According to homeland security sources the job had been turned down by several top candidates in recent weeks, another setback causing brain drain on the issue occurred in March 2009, when Rob Beckstrom the Director of DHS' National Cybersecurity Center resigned citing too much involvement by the National Security Agency in computer protection issues.

In her remarks Tuesday at the global security conference, Napolitano told conference participants, "For those of you from the private sector, I hope to recruit some of your smartest people to join the government."

After making her pitch Napolitano underscored the changing threat in the computer world.

"In terms of the changing threat environment in an international world that is always evolving but could ultimately have a real impact on critical infrastructure within the United States this cyber issue is so very, very important," she said. "And we need to be looking at it not from a traditional standpoint of how we do law and order, but how we need to do it in a new and evolving world."

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