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Nation's cybersecurity chief abruptly quits DHS post

'I'm not a long-term government kind of guy,' says Amit Yoran

By Dan Verton
October 1, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- Amit Yoran, the government's cybersecurity chief, abruptly resigned yesterday after one year with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a move that raised serious questions about the Bush administration's ability to quickly improve the nation's cybersecurity.
Yoran's resignation from his post as director of the DHS National Cyber Security Division comes only days after the former Symantec Corp. executive indicated to Computerworld that he had grown frustrated with the political hand-wringing that accompanied what he saw as a frontline position at the agency (see story).
But in an interview today from his home in Virginia, Yoran said his departure was in keeping with his original agreement with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
"When I came to the DHS, it was literally another start-up within the government, and the mandate was to build the operational capability of the USCERT," said Yoran, referring to the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team. "At the time, it was very clear that it was a limited term, and one year was the commitment that both of us made."
Yoran said he feels comfortable leaving the DHS in its current state, which he characterized as being in a good position to move forward with practical improvements to cybersecurity. "We've made some tangible and tactical operational achievements, including establishing the USCERT," he said. "We've mapped the government's entire IT space and made progress on control system security. So my departure wasn't quite as abrupt as some reports have indicated."
Despite speculation that he left because of frustrations with the government's lack of focus on cybersecurity and a lack of willingness by senior DHS officials to make it a higher priority, Yoran -- whose wife recently gave birth to twins -- said he wants to spend more time with his family.
"I'm not a long-term government kind of guy," he said. "I have my sleeves rolled up in a very entrepreneurial mind-set. But I'm not leaving because of that."
Even so, a former White House official said bluntly that Yoran "got set up" by a DHS bureaucracy that is still playing tug-of-war with physical and cybersecurity. Robert Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at DHS and Yoran's superior, "is so paranoid about losing power and authority that he never gave Amit the power to do the job," the former official said.
Liscouski didn't return Computerworld's request for comment today.
When asked about that possibility, Yoran declined to comment in detail, saying only, "I would characterize my relationship with the leadership of the department as generally positive."
But Yoran told Computerworld in an e-mail last week that

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