|By Stephen C. Webster
The White House on Wednesday receieved a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF link) from two attorneys with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), demanding that President Barack Obama release the text of what they called a “secret” new cyber security law that appears to enable “military deployment within the United States.”
The FOIA was filed in response to an article that appeared in The Washington Post this week, claiming that Obama issued a secret directive shortly before the elections that empowers the military to “vet any operations outside government and defense networks” for cyber security purposes.
However, because the exact text of the directive remains a secret, nobody can really say exactly what it does. That was somewhat disconcerting to American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Michelle Richardson, who told Raw Story on Wednesday that without the text, “it’s hard to see what they mean.”
In their FOIA, EPIC attorneys Amie Stepanovich and Ginger McCall go even further, arguing that the directive is tantamount to the president issuing a “secret law” that may enable “military deployment within the United States” in order to vet network security at companies like AT&T, Facebook, Google and others. And indeed, the Post‘s article seems to substantiate that concern, explaining that the order will help “finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyberattack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.”
Such an order, reportedly issued last month, may have actually overridden Congress concerns amid a debate on cyber security. Senate Democrats failed on Wednesday to pass a cyber security bill that would have put the civilian-run Department of Homeland Security in charge of the nation’s cyber defenses instead of the military-run National Security Agency. Republicans succeeded in blocking the bill even though it had the support of 51 senators, in a move The New York Times described as “setting the stage” for executive action to safeguard the nation’s network infrastructure.
Stepanovich and McCall were not available for comment.