McCain says White House blocked cyber czar from testifying – The Hill

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Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA’s woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.) on Thursday said the White House had blocked its cyber czar from testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. efforts to defend the nation against cyberattacks. 

Rob Joyce, a member of the National Security Council, was invited to testify before the full committee Thursday morning. However, McCain, the panel chairman, said in his opening remarks that the White House had declined to have him testify, citing executive privilege and “precedent against having non-confirmed NSC staff testifying before Congress.”

While such a move has been consistent with past practices by both Republican and Democratic administrations, McCain asserted that the issue of cybersecurity “requires us to completely rethink our old ways of doing business.”  


“I would also like to note at the outset the empty chair at the witness table,” McCain said during opening remarks. “Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the White House declined to have its cyber coordinator testify.”

He said Joyce’s absence underscored the “fundamental misalignment between authority and accountability in our government today when it comes to cyber.” 

“All of our witnesses answer to the Congress for their part of the cyber mission. But none of them is accountable for addressing cyber in its entirety. In theory, that is the White House Cyber Coordinator’s job, but that non-confirmable position lacks the full authority to make cyber policy and strategy and direct our government’s efforts,” McCain said. “ And that official is literally prohibited by legal precedent from appearing before the Congress.” 

Later, McCain signaled that Joyce could be subpoenaed, in response to a suggestion from Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate panel approves bill to speed up driverless cars Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump proclaims ‘Cybersecurity Awareness Month’ | Equifax missed chance to patch security flaw | Lawmakers await ex-CEO’s testimony | SEC hack exposed personal data MORE (D-Fla.). “I think that has to be considered,” McCain said. 

Thursday’s hearing featured testimony from several top cybersecurity officials from across different federal departments, including Kenneth Rapuano, the Pentagon’s Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense and Global Security; Scott Smith, the assistant director for the FBI’s cyber division; and Christopher Krebs, the acting undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) entity charged with protecting federal civilian networks and critical infrastructure from cyber threats.

Joyce, the former leader of an elite hacking group at the National Security Agency (NSA), was brought into Trump’s White House in the early months of the new administration.