Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday they may subpoena the senior White House cybersecurity adviser after the administration blocked him from testifying during a hearing.
The White House declined to allow Rob Joyce, a member of the National Security Council, to testify at the hearing under the rules of executive privilege, which shields employees of the executive branch from disclosing certain information.
While the move by Trump’s White House is consistent with precedents set by past administrations, Sen. John McCain, committee chairman and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said the issue of cybersecurity “requires us to completely rethink our old ways of doing business.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, suggested the committee should issue a subpoena to force Joyce to testify, and McCain said he would look into that option.
“I think that has to be considered," McCain said.
McCain, who left an open chair at the witness table to underscore the absence of Joyce, said the White House refusal to make Joyce available represented a “fundamental misalignment between authority and accountability in our government today when it comes to cyber.”
Ready but more work to be done
While Joyce was conspicuously missing from the hearing Thursday, several top U.S. cyber officials were on hand to testify on defense from cyberattacks, including FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Scott Smith, Pentagon Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano, and acting Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Christopher Krebs.
Rapuano said the combined work of the departments has increased authorities' understanding of new cyber threats facing the country, but he acknowledged “we continue to face challenges when it comes to cyber-incident response on a large scale.”
Rapuano went on to say, “It is clear we have more work to ensure we are ready for a significant cyber incident. Specifically, we must resolve seeming gap issues among various departments, clarify thresholds for DOD assistance, and identify how to best partner with the private sector to ensure a whole national response if and when needed.”
Smith, with the FBI, said while the agency has numerous resources aimed specifically at combating cybercrime, it also has several other divisions “the FBI can leverage at a cyber incident. These include our operational technology division, the regional computer forensic laboratory programs, and the critical incident response group.”