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Key cyber-security officials leave the Trump admin at a difficult time

It's not a secret that that Team Trump has struggled with staffing, but given the apparent seriousness of the cyber-threat, recent departures are discouraging.
A person man uses a laptop. (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa/AP)
A person man uses a laptop.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has made no secret of his concerns about cyber-security threats. In fact, the nation's top intelligence officer raised more than a few eyebrows last week when he said in the months leading up to 9/11, the "system was blinking red," adding, "Here we are, nearly two decades later, and I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red again."

It's against this backdrop that the Wall Street Journal  reports on some important departures from the Trump administration.

Three of the top cybersecurity officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation are retiring from government service, according to people familiar with the matter -- departures that come as cyberattacks are a major concern for the country's security agencies.Senior U.S. intelligence officials warn that the country is at a "critical point" facing unprecedented cyberthreats, including Russia's ongoing attacks on the American political system. The retirements also come as the FBI is facing regular criticism from President Donald Trump and his supporters, and is working to attract and retain top cyber talent.

The WSJ  noted that Scott Smith, who runs the FBI cyber division, is leaving this month, and his deputy, Howard Marshall, has already moved on. Their supervisor, David Resch, is also stepping down.

They're joined by Carl Ghattas, executive assistant director of the FBI's national security branch, who's also leaving, following Jeffrey Tricoli, "a senior FBI cyber agent who oversaw a Bureau task force addressing Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. elections," out the door.

According to Politico, Tricoli was replaced by someone who "knows absolutely nothing about cyber."

Of course, all of this follows Donald Trump's decision in May to eliminate the job of the nation's cyber-security czar, as part of John Bolton's reorganization of the National Security Council.

A New York Times  reported at the time, "Cybersecurity experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move.... It was the latest in a series of steps that appeared to run counter to the prevailing view in Washington of cybersecurity's importance."

It's not exactly a secret that that Team Trump is struggling with staffing issues -- I'll assume you've seen recent iterations of the list -- but given the apparent seriousness of the cyber-threat, none of this is encouraging.