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White House scrambles to show it's on point at fixing security leaks

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • WikiLeaks document releases spur administration to action
  • Official is appointed adviser for information access and security policy
  • Senior Republican lawmaker says it's too little, too late
  • Hoekstra: "It was frightening"

(CNN) -- The White House tapped a career counterterrorism official Wednesday to oversee government-wide efforts to fix security gaps in light of the WikiLeaks publication of classified documents.

The appointment of Russell Travers as senior adviser for information access and security policy, along with other actions detailed in a "fact sheet" released by the White House press office, weren't enough to satisfy the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who said he doesn't "sense an urgency" to close the security gaps.

Travers has been deputy director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center since 2003 and spent the rest of his 30-plus-year career working for such intelligence agencies as the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In the new position, Travers' tasks will include advising the president's national security staff of recommendations, actions and other measures related to WikiLeaks' ability to obtain government documents. He is also to study how such information is handled at high levels and develop options for any technological or policy changes necessary to prevent further leaks.

Additionally, the President's Intelligence Advisory Board has been directed to parse the administration's processes for dealing with classified information, with an eye toward its effectiveness at protecting such information while balancing the need to share information with the need to secure it.

The Office of Management and Budget has directed all agencies and departments that handle classified information to conduct extensive reviews of their procedures and policies.

The secretaries of state and defense, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, respectively, have commissioned reviews of security procedures in their departments, the White House statement says. And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is also working across the government to assist in security reviews.

But Rep. Pete Hoekstra slammed the administration Wednesday, saying the government is not moving fast enough.

"I still don't sense an urgency to fix the problem," said Hoekstra, R-Michigan.

Hoekstra spoke to reporters after attending a high-level meeting to discuss the government computer security breach exposed by WikiLeaks.

"I think that there are still other government databases out there that are out there that have similar types of materials that may be vulnerable to penetration ... that can be downloaded by employees or by other individuals or organizations in a way that would damage American interests," he said.

Since this weekend, WikiLeaks has published hundreds of classified U.S. diplomatic messages, known as "cables," and the organization says it plans to publish up to a quarter-million more.

Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence met behind closed doors with intelligence officials from the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to discuss ways to improve security.

Hoekstra told CNN that the meeting included some frank discussion from Republicans and Democrats but said he felt that the State Department representatives were more interested in "damage control" than in getting the problem fixed.

"It was frightening," Hoekstra said, describing them as "arrogant."

Hoekstra said the White House actions are "seven to eight months late," given that the administration had learned about the leaks in May, and he said they are not enough.

"They're saying that people could die because of these leaks; now, seven months later, they're doing something about it? That doesn't give me a great degree of confidence," he said.

"This is a massive government-wide problem," he said.

Hoekstra, who has served Michigan's 2nd Congressional District in the House since 1993, chose not to run for re-election in 2010, instead running for governor. He lost the Republican primary to Rick Snyder, who eventually won the general election.

CNN's Laurie Ure contributed to this report.