The Cyber Domain: Global Digital Commons or Free Fire Zone?

Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.), Former Director of the CIA and Former Director of the NSA

February 23, 2014

Reports that the Obama administration is willing to strike first when there is imminent danger of a serious cyber attack to the United States and wants to add 4,000 additional personnel to U.S. Cyber Command suggest that our government is failing to develop a national consensus on difficult issues and instead is opting for the path of least resistance. This scenario recently played out in the drone warfare arena, where our inability to decide where to put a detainee once we captured him has led us to use targeted killings as a default method. These drone strikes have the “benefit” of avoiding debates over locations and conditions of confinement, reducing the role of Congress to “notification” while removing the federal courts entirely.

The inability of Congress to pass any bill on cybersecurity during the last session and unwillingness to tackle difficult questions that include privacy, the use of NSA/Cyber Command to defend domestic networks, and enhanced information-sharing between the federal government and the private sector put us on a similarly indiscriminate path as our evolving drone doctrine. In lieu of settling political arguments about standards for critical infrastructure and the balance between government surveillance and privacy, the executive branch is pushing forward and skipping a public debate, preventing our tripartite government from building a national consensus on the best policies for dealing with cyber threats or laying a foundational doctrine for the use of new technologies in cyberspace. Instead, what is needed is a robust debate not only in our think tanks and academic institutions but in the halls of our government as well.

General Michael Hayden is a retired United States Air Force four-star general and former Director of the National Security Agency (1999-2005) and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009). Prior to becoming CIA Director, General Hayden served as the nation’s first Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.  Earlier in his career, General Hayden held positions as Commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and Director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center. General Hayden currently serves as a Principal at The Chertoff Group.