On Wednesday, February 13, 2013 the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative held a panel discussion on the role of Congress in cyber conflict with a particular focus on the War Powers Resolution (WPR).

Passed over the veto of President Nixon in 1973, the WPR requires the president to report to Congress when US forces are introduced into hostilities, and to terminate the use of force within sixty to ninety days unless Congress authorizes the president’s action. While denying its constitutionality, presidents have interpreted the WPR’s requirements to apply only when there is a risk to US personnel.

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The panel exploring the role of Congress featured Tom Bossert, President of Civil Defense Solutions, a government services and private consulting company based in Arlington, Virginia; Andrew Grotto, professional staff member for the Select Committee on Intelligence of the US Senate; Jason Healey, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council; and Derek Khanna, visiting fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. The panel was moderated by Harvey Rishikof, chair of the American Bar Association Advisory Standing Committee on Law and National Security and co-chair of the ABA Taskforce on Cyber and Security.

Read the issue brief: Cyber Conflict and the WPR: Congressional Oversight of Hostilities in the Fifth Domain

The panelists discussed the ambiguities surrounding the application of the War Powers Resolution in cyberspace and how much Congress should be informed when the Executive takes action in cyberspace. Moderator Harvey Rishikof encouraged the panelists to express their views on the role of Congress in determining cyber security policy. Panelist and director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative Jason Healey discussed his recently released issue brief addressing Congressional oversight in the cyber domain. The discussion was highly relevant in light of The White House’s release of a new executive order on cybersecurity. The order fills a gap in policy that was left in the wake of the failed cyber bill that was voted on in the fall of 2012 and ongoing calls for the White House leadership

The panel on the role of Congress in cyber conflict inspired insightful debate and allowed participants and observers to join in the conversation on these highly contemporary issues. The Atlantic Council will be hosting a major event entitled, Cyber 9/12 Project: Statecraft After Catastrophes, to engage cyber professionals in further discussion of these topics. The event will take place on March 7, 2013 in the Knight Studio of the Newseum and will feature a simulated exercise of what would occur in the event of a cyber attack from an adversarial nation. The Atlantic Council will continue to strive to offer events that bring together leading professionals in the cyber industry.

Related Experts: Jason Healey and Thomas P. Bossert