The Trump administration blocked its top cybersecurity advisor Rob Joyce, a member of the National Security Council (NSC), from testifying at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. efforts to defend the nation against cyberattacks following Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the panel chairman, said in his opening remarks on Thursday that the White House had refused to allow Joyce to testify before the full committee, citing executive privilege and “precedent against having non-confirmed NSC staff testifying before Congress.”
While such a move has been consistent with past precedent, McCain said 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. “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.”
McCain later signaled that Joyce could be subpoenaed to appear before the committee.
“I think that has to be discussed,” McCain said.
The Hill added:
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 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, was brought into Trump’s White House in the early months of the new administration.