The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on State Department management, operations and development is spotlighting evidence that the State Department’s computer network has been targeted.
Chairman Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) held a hearing Tueday on the efficiency and effectiveness of State Department operations and found there is evidence that the State Department’s network has been attacked.
Tuesday’s hearing is one of several Senate Foreign Relations full and subcommittee hearings to provide insight into the State Department and it covered many issues including: embassy security, email security, cyber and information security, and overall effectiveness of the State Department.
Steve Linick, the Inspector General of the State Department, told the committee he was concerned over IT security and admitted the State Department’s networks were attacked. He is also concerned with his lack of independence from the state department IT system to thoroughly conduct oversight and investigations into conduct at the State Department.
“We’ve looked at security from a systemic point of view,” said Linick. “We really need to be independent from the department.”
Linick explained that the IT individuals in the state department essentially hold the keys to his system, creating an independence problem because there is unfettered access.
He asked the department not to come onto his system without permission and the department agreed, but Linick wants more security than that.
For example, during an investigation, if a State Department administrator wanted to, he or she could come onto the inspector general’s IT system with his or her access.
When questioned about IT concerns by the committee, Linick said, “I think that your point is well taken to the extent that the Department suffers from attacks, we suffer from attacks because we are on the same network.”
Linick explained that an inspector general couldn’t protect confidentiality of witnesses if there isn’t proper security and protection.
Perdue asked, “Do you have evidence that the State Department’s network has been attacked, and does that affect you guys?”
Linick responded, “There is evidence it has been attacked, and it has affected us. I can’t really go into details because of the nature of the information.”
Linick also found in a 2013 inspection report that 40 percent of the recommendations were repeat recommendations pertaining to security and intelligence training.
“We found many of the same recommendations in the accountability review board in the Benghazi to be the same,” added Linick.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he doesn’t see how the administration can be held accountable if it isn’t known who made the decisions on the night of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans in 2012.
“We try to hold people accountable in the department,” Linick responded.
Johnson said that as the inspector general, maybe Linick can get answers to the questions the administration, Congress and the American people have been asking about on Benghazi.
Linick also said he looked at six contracted security guards around the world at US compounds and embassies. He found that none of the six were fully vetted in terms of background checks and proper training.
“We found problems with that – this is an issue we are pursuing,” Linick said.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email use was not addressed in Tuesday’s hearing. Spokesperson Mark Bednar, with Perdue’s office, said the purpose of this hearing was to get a broad look at the issues the State Department is facing. He added this is just the first of many hearings for the full committee to have on the State Department’s reauthorization process.