Two dozen Dems urge TIllerson to keep State's cyber division

Two dozen Dems urge TIllerson to keep State's cyber division
© Keren Carrion

Following media reports throughout the week that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was considering jettisoning the State Department's cybersecurity office, 24 House Democrats sent a letter Friday imploring him not to. 

Early this week, Chris Painter, then-head of State's cybersecurity diplomacy efforts, stepped down from the post. That was followed by reports that Tillerson would shutter State's Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues (S/CCI) and fold the office into the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. 

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"At a time when the world is more interconnected than ever and we face constant cyber threats from state actors, it is vital that we retain a high-level diplomatic role to report directly to the Secretary on global cybersecurity," reads the letter. 

In recent years, the State Department has negotiated international agreements on cybersecurity, including negotiating with China to cease economic espionage for intellectual property. That agreement and other Obama administration actions, such as publicly naming Chinese hackers stealing IP addresses, led to a precipitous drop in Chinese hacking of private U.S. businesses. 

"Although we appreciate your efforts to streamline the State Department's functions, it would be unwise to move S/CCI into the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs," reads the letter.

"This office has an invaluable mission to engage with other countries on issues of economic importance, but it would not be able to provide the singular expertise on cyber issues that S/CCI does. It is also critical to retain a direct line of communication between the S/CCI Coordinator and the Secretary to ensure that you are aware of all potential threats from abroad."

The letter was co-signed by Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), Brendan Boyle (Pa.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Mike Doyle (Pa.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Tom O'Halleran (Ariz.), Bill Keating (Mass.), Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreEx-White House ethics chief compares Ivanka, Kushner security clearances to college admissions scandal Dem compares college cheating scandal to Ivanka, Jared's security clearance Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE (Wis.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Kathy Castor (Fla.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (Calif.), Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (Wash.), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), Joe Courtney (Conn.), J. Luis Correa (Calif.), Val Demings (Fla.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Jim McGovern (Mass.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Carol Shea Porter (N.H.), with Dingell taking the lead in writing it.