On June 23, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates established the U.S. Cyber Command as a sub-unified command under the U.S. Strategic Command in order to defend military information networks against cyber attacks.1 This organization is the most recent Department of Defense (DoD) response to the increasing threats to U.S. military, government, and commercial information systems and rapidly developing adversarial network capabilities.
In his celebrated concurring opinion in The Steel Seizure Case, Justice Jackson cautioned that “only Congress itself can prevent power from slipping through its fingers.” Jackson’s warning seems especially pertinent today, as we prepare urgently for cyber warfare – facing potentially enormous threats from yet unknown enemies, and finding ourselves dependent on staggeringly complex, unproven technology. The executive branch, which has special expertise and agility in national security matters generally, as well as substantial constitutional authority, has taken the initiative in these preparations. Yet if Congress is to be faithful to the Framers’ vision of its role in the nation’s defense, it must tighten its grip and play a significant part in the development of policies for war on a digital battlefield. It also must enact rules to help ensure that these policies are carried out.
One of the major themes of the Cyberspace Policy Review (the Review) is that a national strategy on cybersecurity must be consistent with the protection of privacy rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the law. Indeed, President Obama underscored that point in announcing the Review when he said that his Administration “will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans,” reiterating the theme from his inaugural address that choosing between our safety and our ideals is a false choice. The authors of the Review are to be commended for encouraging a national dialogue on how this can be achieved while promoting national and economic security. Intelligence agencies, particularly the National Security Agency (NSA), are at the intersection of these vital interests, and intelligence lawyers face daunting but tremendously exciting and important opportunities to help ensure that their agencies operate in ways that effectively balance demands for both privacy and civil liberties and for the security of cyberspace.