Obama names point man to prevent new leaks

Russell Travers will lead US efforts to mitigate damage of WikiLeaks breach.

Updated: Dec 02, 2010, 14:08 PM IST

Washington: President Barack Obama on Wednesday named an anti-terrorism expert to lead US efforts to mitigate the damage of the WikiLeaks breach and prevent future illegal data disclosures, the White House said.

Russell Travers, deputy director of information sharing at the National Counterrorism Centre, "will lead a comprehensive effort to identify and develop the structural reforms needed in light of the WikiLeaks breach”, the White House said in a statement.

Washington has been in damage control mode ever since the whistleblower website last weekend began publicly disclosing some 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables, many of which revealed embarrassing assessments of foreign leaders.

While the White House was seeking to downplay the impact of the security violations as late as Wednesday, the Travers appointment was among the clearest signs that the Obama administration was seriously stung by the data dump and was taking substantive steps to avoid a repeat.

Among his new duties, Travers will be advising national security staff on "corrective actions, mitigation measures, and policy recommendations related to the breach”, according to the White House.

He will also coordinate interagency discussions on developing actions "regarding technological and/or policy changes to limit the likelihood of such a leak reoccurring”.

Travers has been tasked with collating the stream of terrorism-related information pouring into US agencies since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Washington Post describes him as the maintainer of the government database of terrorist entities and a coordinator of terrorism information-sharing initiatives.

The National Counter-Terrorism Centre where he works was among several agencies blamed for failing to uncover a plot to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day last year.

The vast majority of the cables revealed by WikiLeaks in its latest document dump originated from the State Department or its diplomats in overseas missions, and State has launched a review of its security procedures.

"The department will also deploy an automated tool that will continuously monitor the classified network to detect anomalies that would not be readily apparent," as well as staff who will analyse the anomalies "to ensure that they do not represent threats to the system," the White House said.

The President`s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) will look at ways the executive branch shares and protects classified data, and will work "with departments and agencies across the government to ensure they gain a comprehensive appreciation of all relevant challenges and requirements necessary to safeguard classified information and networks."

PIAB will "examine the current posture of the whole of government" in terms of leaks of classified data and will "examine the balance between the need to share information and the need to protect information”.

Bureau Report