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Biden Administration Reviewing Trump-Era Cyber Memorandum

Cyber policy review

Biden Administration Reviewing Trump-Era Cyber Memorandum

White House sources disclosed that the Biden administration has ordered a review of a Trump-era policy giving the Department of Defense and U.S. Cyber Command blanket authority to greenlight cyber operations. The National Security Council is spearheading the interagency review process, which may lead to revisions to Donald Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum-13, CyberScoop reported Thursday.

NSPM-13, which was signed in August 2018, did away with the requirement of seeking presidential approval for offensive and defensive cyber operations outside United States networks. It was intended to allow the U.S. government to quickly respond to ongoing cyber threats.

One of the White House sources called the Trump administration’s delegation of overly broad cyber authorities to the DOD “highly unusual.” Under normal conditions, when the country is not at war, military commanders are supposed to first get the approval of the president before launching cyber operations. “The White House should normally have control,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Michael Daniel, a cybersecurity coordinator under the Obama administration, conceded that cyber decisions came slowly during that presidency. He, however, explained that the conditions were different at the time and that there are clear rules in the physical world that did not exist in cyberspace then.

In a statement shortly after NSPM-13’s approval, DOD officials said the memorandum takes into account that the U.S. is operating under a new cyber concept known as “persistent engagement,” which recognizes that its cyber forces must be in constant engagement with hostile actors. The formal document describing the process remains classified.

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Category: Cybersecurity