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28 Mar 14. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sought to cast U.S. cyber-espionage and attack operations as both limited and transparent in remarks Friday at the retirement ceremony for the National Security Agency’s longest-serving director. Secretary Hagel used an unusual venue—the retirement ceremony and the first live televised event at the NSA—to outline the U.S.’s approach to cybersecurity while praising departing director Gen. Keith Alexander. The U.S. isn’t seeking to “militarize” cyberspace but rather is working to promote reliability and openness on the Internet, reflective of American values, he said. The Defense Department “will maintain an approach of restraint to any cyber operations outside of U.S. government networks,” he said. “We are urging other nations to do the same.” Mr. Hagel said the military’s first response is to prevent or de-escalate conflict, and that its operations in cyberspace served the same purpose. The buildup of U.S. Cyber Command, which the NSA director also commands, is helping the U.S. deter aggression and defend the nation from security threats, he said. While Mr. Hagel never mentioned former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA’s extensive surveillance of telephone and Internet communications, his message appeared to be calibrated to counter the growing impression of the U.S. and its military and intelligence agencies as omnivorous consumers of electronic communications and data in the pursuit of foreign intelligence. A senior defense official briefing reporters before the speech disputed that perception, saying that the U.S. government is limited in both Internet operations and espionage. “That policy and our principle of restraint is not just for cyber operations but NSA,” the senior defense official said. “We think very carefully about the things we would do outside our networks.”
Mr. Hagel’s comments came one day after the White House announced plans to end NSA’s program that collects the phone records of millions of Americans and replace it with a program of individual searches for data at phone companies. Mr. Hagel vowed to “continue to engage in a more open dialogue with the American public,” and he said it was for that reason NSA was allowing a live broadcast from its headquarters, which is also the home of U.S. Cyber Command. The U.S., he said, will “continue to take steps to be open and transparent about our cyber capabilities, doctrine, and forces—with the American people, our allies, and partners, and even competitors.” Notably, the Obama administration’s new classified cyber operations policy was disclosed by Mr. Snowden last year. And efforts to pass cybersecurity legislation in Congress have stalled in the wake of the Snowden leaks. Speaking with reporters before the speech, a senior defense official said that the U.S. approach to the use of force in cyberspace is a model for other countries. “We always use the minimal amount of force possible,” the defense official said. “That is not always the approach that other nations in the world use.” Domestically, the use of Pentagon cyberdefense capabilities is very limited, the official said. Normally, such efforts are the purview of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the official said. The Pentagon would step in to “defend the nation,” the official said, in “the equivalent of an armed attack a major attack against the United States.”
The U.S. is working to explain its policies of restraint with foreign governments, and Mr. Hagel plans to raise the issue on his visit to Beijing next week, the senior defense official said. That is likely to be a tough conversation in the wake of a recent round of leaks by Mr. Snowden showing that NSA infiltrated Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company U.S. military officials have accused of being a vehicle

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