Merger of Big Banks and National Security Power … What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Bloomberg reports:

Wall Street’s biggest trade group has proposed a government-industry cyber war council to stave off terrorist attacks that could trigger financial panic by temporarily wiping out account balances, according to an internal document.

The proposal by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, known as Sifma, calls for a committee of executives and deputy-level representatives from at least eight U.S. agencies including the Treasury Department, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, all led by a senior White House official.

The trade association also reveals in the document that Sifma has retained former NSA director Keith Alexander to “facilitate” the joint effort with the government. Alexander, in turn, has brought in Michael Chertoff, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, and his firm, Chertoff Group.

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Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, declined to comment.

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[Just-retired NSA Boss General Keith] Alexander had been pitching Sifma and other bank trade associations to purchase his services through his new consulting firm, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., for as much as $1 million per month, according to two people briefed on the talks.

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Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, said today he was concerned that industry members in such a joint group could improperly get involved in pre-emptive strikes against a person or state planning an assault on the U.S.

“This could in effect make the banks part of what would begin to look like a war council,” Grayson said in an e-mail. “Congress needs to keep an eye on what something like this could mean.”

Congressman Grayson tweets:

Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander wants to form a joint WH-bank war council. So now Wall Street gets to declare war?

There is cause for concern, given the following context:

  • Cyber war may lead to a shooting war. For example, Scientific American notes:

Department of Defense announcements that they intend to view cyber attacks as “acts of war” suggest a military force nearly itching to flex its muscle in response to a serious computer network–based disruption, if only as a means of deterrence.

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Concerns about overreaction and the use of military force in response to digital intrusions often lead to discussions about the difficulty surrounding definitive attribution of these types of attack. If you want to retaliate, how do you know whom to hit? In our exercise intelligence pointed to Russia, but the evidence wasn’t clear-cut.

Category: Legal, Think Tank, War/Defense

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