Top defense and intelligence officials reiterated their commitment to information-sharing at a Senate hearing Thursday, even as they outlined new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the WikiLeaks breach that has led to the release of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.

The Defense Department, for example, is striving to proceed with needed protections "without reverting to pre-9/11 stovepipes," Chief Information Officer Teresa Takai told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

To stop unauthorized downloading of files to CDs, the department has disabled the "write" function on almost 90 percent of some 220,000 computers with access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, she said. The Pentagon is also beefing up information security training while tightening log-in access to SIPRNet machines through the use of "smart cards" in place of unwieldy password systems.

At the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, "we've all worked very hard" to ensure that the WikiLeaks uproar "does not have a chilling effect," said Corin Stone, information sharing executive for the intelligence community. As part of a three-pronged strategy to safeguard classified information, she said, the agency is focusing on technical protection, access, and monitoring computer user activity to uncover any anomalies.

Thursday's hearing cast a rare ray of light on the government's response to the WikiLeaks breach. After last year releasing hundreds of thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq war records, the anti-secrecy organization is now dribbling out a trove of State Department cables, some of which have proved highly embarrassing to U.S. officials and allies.

Although no one has been formally charged with handing the records to WikiLeaks, suspicion has centered on Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, whom the military accused last May of illegally downloading more than 150,000 cables while stationed in Iraq. Earlier this month, the Army announced another 22 charges, including computer fraud and aiding the enemy.

On Thursday, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., repeatedly pressed for an explanation on how a lowly enlisted soldier could download so much information.

"It's not only dangerous, it's embarrassing what happened," Brown said.

Thomas Ferguson, the Pentagon's principal deputy undersecretary for intelligence, acknowledged that the military took a risk by making SIPRNet databases widely available to soldiers in Iraq, but added that the focus was on speed and ability, and that many of the computer systems there were "cobbled together."

"It didn't work as well as we hoped," Ferguson said.

News Source : federaltimes.com

Have something to say about this article? Comment below or share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn Group.