Sep 12, 2019

With Bolton gone, White House cybersecurity strategy may change

John Bolton arrives at Downing Street in London, Aug. 13. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

With the ouster of national security adviser John Bolton this week, the White House loses a key cog in its cybersecurity and cyber warfare machine.

The big picture: Bolton was a hawkish national security adviser at a time when the Department of Defense was taking a more hawkish approach to cybersecurity. He also eliminated the position of White House cybersecurity coordinator, giving himself more control.

The big question: Will a new adviser bring back the cybersecurity coordinator position?

  • Beyond a role in cyber warfare and cyber defense, the so-called cybersecurity czar coordinated often competing cybersecurity-related interests across the federal government.
  • "A more visibly coordinated, unified approach to cybersecurity would better protect U.S. interests moving forward," said Michael Daniel, the president and CEO of the Cyber Threat Alliance, who served as cybersecurity coordinator in the Obama White House.

Yes, but: Don't hold your breath about the position coming back, said Jamil N. Jaffer, vice president for strategy, partnerships and corporate development at IronNet Cybersecurity and a former associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush.

  • "The president obviously prefers a smaller, more focused, and trusted set of advisers — in part because he likes to make key decisions rapidly based in large part on his own counsel — so it wouldn't be surprising if he rejected the idea of re-creating a cyber czar position, even if that’s what the new national security adviser wanted,” Jaffer said via email.

What they're saying: "It's hard to imagine someone more hawkish," said Dave Weinstein, chief security officer of Claroty, a cybersecurity firm protecting critical infrastructure. "But I could imagine someone more intelligence-focused pulling back a little."

The bottom line: The Bolton tenure was volatile in part because he was an ideologue working for a president with no consistent ideology, said David Kris, a former head of the national security division at the Department of Justice and founder of the Culper Partners consulting firm.

  • That could lead to an era of less consistent strategy if President Trump appoints a more philosophically malleable adviser with less desire to keep the Oval Office on the rails.
  • "Without a doubt, the most significant challenge will be managing the commander in chief," said Kris.

Go deeper: Where current cybersecurity guidelines fall short

Go deeper

Protests for George Floyd continue for 10th day

Thousands of protesters march over the Brooklyn Bridge on June 4 in New York City. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All four former Minneapolis police officers have been charged for George Floyd’s death and are in custody, including Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The latest: Crowds gathered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday evening and in Atlanta, Georgia, despite the rain. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined demonstrators on Thursday. Demonstrators in Washington, D.C. dispersed following a thunderstorm and rain warning for the region.

Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

2 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.