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NSA hacking chief's mission impossible: Advising White House on cybersecurity

Rob Joyce is heading to US National Security Council

By John Leyden, 15 Mar 2017

NSA hacking crew bossman Rob Joyce is set to join US President Donald Trump's National Security Council as a cybersecurity adviser.

Joyce headed up the NSA's Tailored Access Operations division, the spy agency's elite computer exploitation squad.

Whispers have been sloshing around since the weekend that Joyce was tapped to shape cybersecurity policy for the Trump administration. On Wednesday morning, at the Cyber Disrupt 2017 conference in Washington DC, White House aide Thomas Bossert went on stage and confirmed the rumors are true.

"I’d like you to welcome Rob Joyce as he joins the White House National Security Council team ... We will welcome Rob as soon as the process works its way through," said Bossert, who advisers the President on homeland security and counterterrorism. You can watch the conference unfold live here, by the way.

The US National Security Council is supposed to brief the president on foreign affairs and, well, national security issues. It's chaired by the prez, has the secretaries of state, defense and energy on board, plus military and intelligence advisers. The council is at the center of ongoing political drama: the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence were relegated from the council's Principals Committee, and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was controversially installed by Trump. Now Donald has overruled a move to sideline an intelligence operative from the council – an operative backed by Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump's real-estate investor son-in-law.

All in all, Joyce joins a group that should be strictly business but instead finds itself snagged again and again in political chess games. It's still not clear where ex-New York City major Rudy Giuliani fits in all of this: he was supposed to be a cybersecurity tsar to the president.

"It's a big responsibility," said Fleming Shi, SVP of advanced technology engineering at Barracuda, of Joyce's appointment, "but critical to our national security to create a true partnership between private industry and the government. Not just consulting and regulating, but real collaboration."

Meanwhile, former Senator Dan Coats (R-IA) today got the green light from the US Senate to take up the role of Director of National Intelligence. He was handpicked by Trump for the position. ®

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