Janet Napolitano visits UC Berkeley, talks cyber security

April 25, 2011 6:29:24 PM PDT
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke to UC Berkeley students about the government's approach to cyber security Monday. She told them that while we are better prepared than in September 2001, "that does not mean we can sit still."

Napolitano's speech was part homeland security update, part recruiting session, saying graduates with both technical and policy skills are needed right now, and many more will be needed in years to come.

"If these were ordinary times, what we were doing in the homeland security area might be good enough to say we are safe enough," said Napolitano, speaking to a packed auditorium at UC Berkeley. "But these are not ordinary times."

Napolitano said for the first time, the U.S. government is looking at cyberspace as its own security domain.

"For the military side of the universe, the so-called dot-mill, the Department of Defense would have the lead," she said. "But for the civilian side of the government and for the intersection with the private sector, the Department of Homeland Security would have the lead."

She said the Obama administration is looking at cyberspace counter-intelligence, cyberspace as its own civilian space, like a neighborhood or schoolyard, that needs to be protected. She also said that trained, educated people will be needed to work in this area.

The DHS cyber security staff has tripled in size under the Obama administration. She encouraged students to consider getting in on the ground floor of this fledging division of the DHS.

She made no mention of the most recent release of Wikileaks documents, related to detainees at the controversial Guantanamo detention facility. It's the latest installment in ongoing releases of sensitive government documents obtained by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Assange got the materials from Army Private Bradley Manning, who secretly downloaded the materials onto flash drives while on the job. He was arrested in Iraq in May of last year and has been incarcerated ever since.

"I think Bradley is a hero," said Naomi Pitcairn, who wants Manning released. She led a group to last week's $5,000 a plate breakfast for President Barack Obama in San Francisco, where they appealed to the president for Manning's release.

The Obama administration says the disclosure of the Guantanamo documents could damage national security, and "we strongly condemn the leaking of this sensitive information."

"Nothing about the information thus far? those allegations have not been proven, which also begs the question, why no trial? Why no plans for a trial? Why is this man in solitary confinement for a year?" said Craig Casey of the Fresh Juice Party.

Manning's supporters believe he's a hero for releasing what they believe is a video of a war crime showing an Apache helicopter crew killing a Reuters news photographer in Iraq in 2007. Manning is scheduled to be moved to a prison at Fort Leavenworth any day now.

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