All posts by Michael Chertoff

As Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, Mr. Chertoff led the country in blocking would-be terrorists from crossing our borders or implementing their plans if they were already in the country. He also transformed FEMA into an effective organization following Hurricane Katrina. His greatest successes have earned few headlines – because the important news is what didn’t happen.


I am proud to be asked by the Journal of National Security Law & Policy to introduce this important and impressive issue. The timing could not be more critical. The nation is in the middle of a significant debate – how important is cybersecurity among the many security vulnerabilities competing for scarce resources? This is precisely the sort of consequential topic regularly addressed by this journal, which was created on a volunteer basis as a direct reaction to the September 11 attacks on the United States. My compliments to the Journal for providing incisive commentary by and for public officials and academics alike.

A cornerstone of our twenty-first century economy is the ability to employ computers to transact business, operate infrastructure, and manage our personal affairs. We often take for granted how much of our daily lives depends upon the efficient operation of our computers and their ability to communicate across vast and varied networks. Not just mobile phones, email, and online shopping rely on cyberspace, but also electricity and the businesses that facilitate our daily living like grocery stores and trash pickup. This dependence on cyberspace means that it must be reliable and resilient – in other words, secure from failure, compromise, data manipulation, or theft.

Of course, cybersecurity is only one aspect of national and homeland security. We are fighting against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, hardening the transportation system, and investing unprecedented resources in securing our national border. We undertook a massive immunization effort across our country’s school systems to address H1N1 influenza. How do we assign a relative value to cybersecurity among this list of priorities? And once we determine the relative values, how do we take action to secure cyberspace? These matters are just beginning to be opened to robust debate. And that debate must take place within a common framework of analysis…