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Lawmaker leans on Trump for details on cyber operation plans

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, publicly blasted the Trump administration for neglecting to brief Congress on how the U.S. military is using expanded offensive cyber authorities.

Langevin and other HASC leaders from both parties wrote to President Trump in February requesting a copy of National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 13 which outlined the new authorities being assumed by the administration. That letter was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Last year, the administration rescinded Presidential Policy Directive 20 drafted under President Barack Obama, which laid out a complex interagency process for approving U.S. offensive cyber operations. The White House replaced that policy with NSPM 13, which National Security Advisor John Bolton said would no longer "tie the hands" of the military when it came to striking back at foreign cyber threats.

Since then, U.S. Cyber Command has executed at least two publicly known operations against Russian intelligence agencies and another against Iranian rocket and missile computer systems, but has thus far refused to let members of Congress read the document or brief them on the new policy.

Langevin's office told FCW, a sibling site to Defense Systems, in June that the White House's continued refusal to share documents detailing how the military was conducting sensitive operations in cyberspace "impedes Congress's ability to ensure both law and policy are followed."

"Congress has a vital role to play in ensuring any offensive cyber operations do not inadvertently undermine that stability and reflect our commitments to responsible state behavior in this new domain," Langevin said in a statement put out hours after the story published. "Unfortunately, the White House has continually stymied our attempts to conduct this Constitutionally protected oversight, refusing to provide important policy documents that took effect nearly a year ago."

Langevin also introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill that would give the administration 30 days to hand over copies of all National Security Presidential Memorandums relating to Department of Defense operations in cyberspace.

"I expect these documents to be provided immediately, or else we will take measures to require them by law," Langevin continued in his statement. "Defending our nation in cyberspace requires close collaboration between the legislative and the executive branches, and I am deeply disappointed that the president refuses to work with us on this vital issue."

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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