McCain: Don't give Homeland Security lead in defending against cyberattacks

The Homeland Security Department should not have a lead role in defending the nation against cyberattacks, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE (R-Ariz.) argued Tuesday. 

McCain referenced the problems of the Transportation Security Administration in making his argument. 


"Anyone who has been through an airport has no confidence in the technological capabilities of the Department of Homeland Security," McCain said during a Senate Armed Services hearing.

He argued that the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command have the expertise to handle cybersecurity.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Limbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (R-Maine) are pushing a bill that would give the Homeland Security Department the authority to require that critical computer systems meet basic security standards.

But McCain argued that the Lieberman-Collins bill would create burdensome regulations and give too much responsibility to the Homeland Security Department.

He has introduced his own bill, the Secure IT Act, which focuses on encouraging information-sharing between the government and the private sector on cyber-threats and gives lead roles to NSA and Cyber Command.

But during the hearing, Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and chief of U.S. Cyber Command, defended the Homeland Security Department's capability.

"We welcome and support new statutory authorities for DHS that would ensure this information-sharing takes place," Alexander said.

But McCain grilled Alexander on the issue, arguing that most cyberattacks come from overseas and should be handled by military agencies.

"All three of us need to work together," Alexander said. He argued that the Homeland Security Department is the appropriate agency to work with domestic critical infrastructure companies to ensure their systems are secure.

"That's a curious logic, General," McCain said. He added that the Homeland Security Department is the "most inefficient bureaucracy I have ever encountered."

But Lieberman argued that McCain's Secure IT Act would not do enough to protect the nation from cyberattacks.

"This is not just a question of regulation of business. This is protection of our homeland," Lieberman said.

He argued Homeland Security officials are cable of handling cyber-threats and that they deserve credit for preventing major terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001.