3. Kill switch hype.
Several high-profile events over the past few years -- from the infiltration of the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter program to the Stuxnet worm that cut through Iran's industrial controls system -- highlight the complex threat of cyberattacks to governments. But the recent hacking of companies like Google and five major energy firms reveals how easy it can be to attack the private sector as well.
Many underestimate the role of the private sector in our nation's cybersecurity. In fact, it is the private sector that controls most of the infrastructure in this country. That's why we need to get industry and government in the same room to agree on meaningful protective measures and overcome big challenges such as the protection of proprietary data and uniformity to avoid competitive disadvantage.
Like so many other issues, cybersecurity has become too politicized. As a result, we still lack consensus about how much authority the government needs in the case of a cyber emergency. Outside groups have scared everyone with the idea of a "kill switch," which would allow the president, in extreme circumstances, to shut down the entire Internet.
"Kill switch" hype prevents more serious debate about cybersecurity. Congress and the White House have ducked some of the toughest issues, which means that the Internet, the electrical grid, and the aircraft control networks are all vulnerable -- and so is an under-informed public.
4. Targeted killings of Americans.
Targeted killing has been one of the most controversial components of President Obama's war on terror. Drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere have more than quintupled under his presidency. The use of such drones is a key piece of our counterterrorism strategy, but, as on the domestic side, its purposes must be transparent and publically debated.
Attorney General Eric Holder lifted some of the fog over this particular matter and provided a legal justification consistent with American laws and values in a speech at Northwestern University last week. Though he declined to address specific cases, Holder offered a detailed rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad that includes an imminent threat to the United States, the danger of the person in question escaping, or the inability to capture that person alive.
Select members of Congress have most likely seen the complete legal justification, and the CIA took a positive step by pushing to make the reasoning public. Congress and the American people deserve to -- need to -- understand the legal rationale behind these strikes and to debate their appropriateness.
Our failure to address and one day solve these truly complex issues has consequences, and they are very serious. Kicking the can down the road means that our adversaries can exploit us and claim that we "disappear" people and ignore the rule of law. They can frame us as hypocrites and continue to use Gitmo and Abu Ghraib as recruiting tools for the next generation of terrorists.
We have to win the argument with this next generation, and the only way to do that is to live our values, face the tough issues, and build public support around our best answers. It's time for the United States to lead by example and make our chalk lines bright enough for everyone to see.