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Senate Kills Accountability for Cyber-Security ‘Czar’

Insurance Experts' Forum, September 28, 2009

One of the best things about covering the technology industry is that one doesn’t usually have to sully oneself with the hogwash that passes for discourse and wisdom among our nation’s politicians.

On those rare occasions where politics does poke its ugly head into the tech domain, however, the results are, perhaps predictably, disturbing.

Take the recent news, as reported by the greater press, that a proposed amendment that would have given Congress more oversight over the White House cyber-security czar and at least 17 other czars appointed by President Obama was shut down in the U.S. Senate last week.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), sought to restrict federal funds for the expenses of White House-appointed czars unless two conditions were met, the article said. One required the president to agree that every czar would respond to "reasonable requests" to testify before Congress on matters related to the office. The other would require the czars to issue a report to Congress twice a year.

According to stories in the press, the amendment was ruled "non-germane" to the pending bill in the Senate and will not move forward. Who made this “ruling” is not clear, but it did follow an objection to the amendment by a Democratic Senator who apparently would rather not know what these czar-types are up to.

So, the cyber-security czar—who has yet to be appointed due to the glaring unattractiveness of the position—can blithely do whatever he or she wishes to do without any oversight by Congress, or the American people. This quashing of accountability is, perhaps, standard operating procedure in the world of politics, but it smells rotten to those of us who live in objective reality.

To put this in insurance terms: Suppose you wanted to buy an auto policy, but you didn’t want the insurer to check on your driving record before granting the policy. Then suppose you also objected to the carrier reviewing the validity of any claims you might make during the policy term. Zero accountability for you! Sounds like a great deal, but I daresay that no insurance company would be so imbecilic as to write that policy. That’s because insurers, unlike most politicians, do tend to live in the real world.

And why are we talking about “czars” in a democracy anyway? Last I heard, czars were absolute rulers, often despotic, who could do whatever they wanted with impunity and were accountable to no one. Isn’t that the kind of situation that democracy was designed to prevent? Yet we see this administration telling us, essentially, that they need to appoint various iron-fisted rulers who are accountable to no one, least of all the citizens of this nation. The sheer arrogance of this notion is appalling.

Then again, maybe removing all accountability from the cyber-security czar position will somehow entice a qualified candidate to take the job. Can’t you just see the want-ad? “Yeah, we know this is a lose-lose position, but don’t worry, because we won’t be monitoring anything you do.” Cool, huh?

Sad to say, but this development is yet another sign that our culture is moving away from the noble notion of personal responsibility and toward an era where we are told what we will think and what we will do by “someone who knows better than we do.”  

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services. He can be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

 

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