Amit Yoran, The New Cybersecurity Tsar For Homeland Security – Who Is This Man Who Will Be Watching Everything We Do Online, And Can He Be Trusted?
When you first hear the name Amit Yoran as the person who has just been charged with overseeing cybersecurity – keeping an eye on everything that goes on online – for America’s Department of Homeland Security, it sounds odd. One would not normally expect to hear a foreign-sounding name for such an important national security position.
Yoran has always been a bit of an oddball. While some children have role models like John Wayne or Babe Ruth, Amit’s most envied role model was Alex P. Keaton, the character Michael J. Fox played on the NBC TV sitcom Family Ties. People who know him say he used to wear vests and even ties to school when he was growing up – and he did not attend a private school where uniforms were required. No, this was just the way Amit used to like to dress, even amidst a mix other kids wearing everything from Metallica shirts to the latest Benetton fashions. And he would – like the Keaton character on the show – frequently gush about, “What a stud,” Ronald Reagan or Oliver North were.
And this was back in his high school days.
So does that mean that the man who will run our cybersecurity program and watch over everything we do online is some psychotic right-winger who we should fear?
Well, to understand this man you need to look at his roots.
Born into a life of relative privilege, Amit was one of four sons of Israeli immigrants. As people from Israel like to say, you mature very quickly there, and paying attention to world affairs is not something that makes a kid a dork or egghead, it is simply a fact of existence there. And so Amit’s focus at a young age on international affairs and embrace of the boldly pro-Israel foreign policy of the Reagan administration is easily understood. And, as someone descended from a nation whose existence is threatened on a daily basis, the importance these things played in even his early life begins to not seem so odd after all.
Yoran’s focus propelled him. Although he was smart, he was in no way one of the smartest children in his class. While you would expect a would-be computer geek to be a braniac lost in his own world of algorithms and programming languages, Amit was much more interested in a mix of Casper Weinberger and beer, and actually struggled in his advanced mathematical studies. Yes, he was already acting more like a military man than a true computer nerd.
And so it is not surprising that while other kids in his extremely wealthy, Ivy League-worshiping hometown of Pound Ridge, New York dreamed of going to Harvard or Yale, Amit was focused on a much more serious goal – to attend West Point, as his brother, Elad, had before him.
How many computer geeks do you know whose dream is to join the military? One can easily start to get the image of Yoran as someone who is a bit off-kilter and war happy.
However, in reality, Amit didn’t prove so gun happy after all. When the government offered to forgo his contract to serve militarily after his graduation from West Point so he could serve as a cryptology specialist, he gladly put down his rifle and headed to Washington. There, he began to make a name for himself and a network of contacts which he would greatly use to his advantage a few years down the road when he decided to start his own business. Riptech, the cybersecurity firm Amit started with his West Point brother Elad – thanks to his connections in government circles in part – took off like an Tomahawk missile, and after only 4 years of running the company, they were bought out by Symantec for $145 million.
Not a bad payoff for a few years work.
So, is this man, who will be charged with watching over all of us, yet another Bush-brand Republican with no respect for honesty, who used, like the President, inside connections to get ahead in life?
The answer is: a resounding no. Amit is nothing like your typical Bushie. In fact, Amit might be dubbed the anti-Bush.
Just compare their histories for starters.
Both were born to a life of privilege, but while Bush chose to party and had no interest – until even just a couple of years ago – in foreign policy, Amit never had an interest in things like drugs and was focused from early on on foreign affairs.
While President Bush chose the typical rich boy Ivy League route by going to Yale, Amit chose to serve his country by going to West Point.
While President Bush did as much as possible to avoid having to serve in the military – fleeing to the Texas Air National Guard, and even fleeing AWOL from there – Amit fought to overcome scholastic and physical challenges to fight his way into West Point.
While George Bush was handed businesses by his daddy’s friends and one by one ran them into the ground, Amit started a company on his own and quickly grew it into a massive success.
And while President Bush is a newcomer to “conservative” values and political ideas, only coming to them after 40-plus years of being an unambitious, uninterested alcoholic – and even then only embracing the dishonest, fully-flawed Rush Limbaugh version of conservatism – Amit has always been a moderate socially and conservative politically, and his conservative politics are based on solid ideals and a belief in certain policies that has been borne over years of active consideration and experience.
So in the end the question is not, “Will Amit Yoran make a good chief of cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security?” He will, and, not being a Bush-brand Republican but a true, morally sound moderate, he can be trusted not to abuse his position or attack in the way the hateful, paranoid Ashcroft does.
No, in the end, the question becomes why is it that George W. Bush is our President and not a thoughtful, intelligent, accomplished, militarily trained and educated man like Amit Yoran?
Oh yeah, maybe that’s because he is only 32 years old, while to be President you have to be at least 40.
Amit Yoran was not President Bush’s first choice for the position of Cyber Tsar. One man has already resigned from the position and another refused the President’s offer to be his replacement. No, Amit wasn’t the first choice, and he wasn’t even the second. But, in reality, he was likely the best choice.
He won’t bring rhetoric and hate to the office, but drive and capability. Unfortunately for the President, who maybe was just trying to appoint another toe-the-line-while-destroying-freedom political hack, he ended up with the real deal. If he was hoping for another heel-biting Bush/Limbaughian – a Hannity-like head to kiss his butt and fill a space – he screwed up.
No, President Bush did not inflict the nation with an amoral, dishonest, America-hating Cyber Tsar born in the mold of President Bush and his born-again Republican friends. In fact, unwittingly, the President just may have given a big step up to a man who may someday shake the Bush stranglehold on Republican politics and go on to become the Commander-In-Chief President Bush can only dream of being.