Ranking Member Beyer’s Statement in Response to Majority Criticism of Minority’s Cybersecurity Oversight Request

Feb 14, 2017

(Washington, DC) - Today, during the Research and Technology Subcommittee hearing, “Strengthening U.S. Cybersecurity Capabilities”, Ranking Member of the Oversight Subcommittee, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) made the following statement and submitted documents for the record in response to statements made by Majority staff in an article in The Hill yesterday and in a Majority letter. The statements and letter were issued in response to a letter sent by Ranking Member Johnson, Congressman Beyer, and Congressman Lipinski regarding President Trump’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities and practices.

“My Republican colleagues claimed that the letter we sent to Chairman Smith and LaHood and Chairwoman Comstock last week calling on them to investigate President Trump’s cybersecurity practices was hypocritical since we did not support the Committee’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.

“I would simply highlight a few facts:

  • By the time the Science Committee launched its investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails three (3) government agencies (FBI, State OIG and ODNI OIG)) had already completed investigations of Clinton’s emails and five (5) other Congressional Committees were investigating this same issue.
  • The Committee essentially dropped all interest in Hillary Clinton’s emails within days after the 2016 Presidential Election.

“There was also a quote in The Hill yesterday from an anonymous Science Committee staffer claiming Science Committee Democrats refused to support past investigations into cyber hacks, specifically mentioning the OPM hack and the breaches at the FDIC. I’d like to submit for the record two documents that dispute this alternative fact.

“Donald Trump has been President for less than one month and cybersecurity issues are already plaguing his Presidency, including his use of an unsecure personal cell phone and having his Presidential Twitter account previously linked to a Gmail account.

“I hope the Majority will continue to show interest in investigating cybersecurity incidents, even when they involve a sitting Republican President.”

Congressman Beyer went on to ask a number of questions of the witnesses related to the Trump Administration’s cybersecurity practices.

“This past week the Trump Administration revised and then delayed the release of a new Executive Order on cybersecurity. It was also reported that the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in charge of cybersecurity for the White House and the President was fired. As I pointed out in a letter I signed with Ranking Members Johnson and Lipinski to our Republican counterparts last week, in his few short weeks in office President Trump and some of his senior staff appear to be struggling with implementing proper and appropriate cybersecurity practices. As our letter points out, the President still apparently uses his easily hackable unsecure personal cell phone and his official Twitter account had been linked to an unsecure private Gmail account. And just this weekend it was widely reported that the President held conversations and reviewed documents about the North Korean missile launch in the middle of Mar-a-Lago’s restaurant, potentially within earshot of waiters and fellow diners. According to eye witnesses, aides used their phones as flashlights to illuminate the documents, which could let hackers, if they had compromised those phones, read the material because the phones’ camera was pointed right at them. These actions give the appearance that the Trump Administration’s cybersecurity policies are in disarray and that the personal cybersecurity practices of the President and his senior staff are both unwise and insecure.

“I am sure you have all seen some of the stories about the questionable cybersecurity practices being utilized by President Trump that I just mentioned.

  • Dr. Burley, starting with you, but I’d like everyone to respond, could you speak to this issue, particularly about how effective cybersecurity policy requires buy-in from the top of the organizational chart, whether it is from a CEO, Agency Head, or President of the United States? And secondly what message does the President’s own cybersecurity practices send to federal workers about the importance of cybersecurity?
  • What measures should the Administration take to secure the important Twitter accounts used by the President?
  • Who in the Administration should be responsible for insuring cybersecurity at the White House and by the President and his senior staff?”