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The Washington Post is reporting on the release of a new White House cybersecurity report titled “Federal Cybersecurity Risk Determination Report and Action Plan” (I just submitted it to GPO as a fugitive document!). The report has some very disturbing results showing that federal agencies across the government are struggling to get secure. Read on.
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have finished a governmentwide review examining the security of federal agencies, and the results aren’t pretty.
Dozens of federal agencies have cybersecurity programs that aren’t properly equipped to deal with cyber intrusions in their networks, according to a new report released by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Of the 96 federal agencies examined, a whopping 71 were relying on cybersecurity programs deemed “at risk or high risk.”
…The report found that 12 agencies had “high risk” programs, meaning key cybersecurity tools weren’t in place or weren’t deployed sufficiently. Fifty-nine agencies had “at risk” programs, meaning some of the right policies were in place but there were “significant gaps” in terms of security. OMB also noted that federal agencies lacked the visibility into their own networks that would help them detect attempts to steal data and respond to other cyber incidents.
Although the report doesn’t identify which agencies had cybersecurity problems, the scope of the issues described in the report makes it clear that both small and large agencies alike have a ton of work to do, said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at DHS.
A White House web page that says it will report appointees who have been granted waivers to an Ethics Pledge has no posting as of March 10.
A January 28 executive order, “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees” requires full-time political appointees to sign an Ethics Pledge that is similar to President Obama’s Executive Order 13490.
The new EO differs in two important ways from the Obama EO. The Obama EO allowed the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in consultation with the Counsel to the President to grant waivers to the Pledge by certifying "in writing (i) that the literal application of the restriction is inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction, or (ii) that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver." The Trump EO simply says that the President may grant a waiver.
Second, the Trump EO drops the Obama EO requirement for an annual public report on the administration of the pledge and the EO.
The new EO bans White House appointees who were registered lobbyists from participating in any related matters (Section 1, item 7).
- President Trump Issues Executive Order Requiring Ethics Pledge, by Matthew Bobys et al. JD Supra (2/7/2017).
The Independent reports that the President has hired three lobbyists who apparently do not meet that criterion.
- Donald Trump hires three lobbyists as top White House staffers despite pledge to ‘drain the swamp’, by Rachael Revesz The Independent (Mar 6, 2017).
One appointee, who worked on retirement and tax issues, is now working in the White House as special assistant for tax and retirement policy. Two appointees who lobbied on energy industry matters are advising the President on domestic and international energy and environmental policies.
The White House website has a page for Ethics Pledge Waivers Released by the White House, which says that "Ethics pledge waivers will be published as they become available." None have been posted as of Mar 10, 2017.
The trump administration seems to be systematically making it more difficult for the public to communicate with the government.
Last week the White House closed its telephone comment line (202-456-1111) and suggested that people make comments on the White House’s website at or on Facebook Messenger although there is currently no way to leave a message on the White House’s Facebook page: Rep. Speier demands reopening of White House phone comment line, by Bay City News Service, Palo Alto Almanac (Feb 6, 2017).
Also last week, the FBI stopped accepting FOIA requests by email.
Yesterday, Mashable reported that the Department of Energy has taken down its public-facing employee directory, making it far more difficult for journalists and members of the public to locate email addresses and phone numbers for agency personnel. It just got a whole lot harder for you to contact Energy Department employees, By Andrew Freedman (2017-02-16).
McClatchyDC reports that The White House comment line is shut down, that new signatures aren’t being counted on petitions posted on the White House’s website, that Federal agencies are not allowed to respond to requests, that transcripts, executive orders and news releases aren’t being posted online, that social media accounts, including Flickr, Pinterest and Tumblr, are no longer in use, and that sending information to the Federal Register is delayed.
- Trump White House is leaving the public in the dark. Is it growing pains – or a plan? by Anita Kumarakumar, McClatchyDC (February 3, 2017 3:33 PM ).
The report also says that the Trump administration revamp of the the White House website eliminated references to gay and lesbian issues and global warming and the Spanish-language website.
Ben Marchi, a Trump supporter and longtime Republican operative is quoted as saying, “It’s far too early to sound the alarm bells.”
When asked if he thinks these problems are intentional or a normal part of the overwhelming task of a transition, Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, said, “I don’t know because no one is telling us.”
The White House did not respond to a request from McClathyDC for comment.