- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2018

The chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman has threatened to subpoena the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for documents related to the federal government’s purge of products made by  Kaspersky Lab, a Russian software vendor accused of aiding Moscow’s alleged cyber-espionage activities.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, wrote DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday demanding a thorough update on the agency’s September directive banning Kaspersky products, including a congressional briefing on the government’s efforts to identify and remove Kaspersky software, as well as copies of previously requested related documents and communications.

Mr. Smith had asked DHS in December for materials related to its order banning Kaspersky products, Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 17-01, and last month the agency provided a “partial” response largely consisting of information outside the scope of his committee’s request, the congressman wrote.

DHS later told the Science committee that pending litigation prevented the agency from releasing additional documents involving its Kaspersky purge, but Mr. Smith said legal precedents suggest otherwise.

“Pending litigation is not a basis for declining to fully comply with the Dec. 5, 2017, request for documents and information. Courts have repeatedly affirmed congressional prerogatives to gain access to various types of documents — litigation sensitive and trade secrets — among others,” Mr. Smith wrote.

“If the department does not provide all of the requested material, the committee will consider use of the compulsory process to obtain the information,” the chairman added, suggesting the Science panel could subpoena DHS for its Kaspersky documents unless the agency complies with a Feb. 8 deadline.

Issued Sep. 13, the directive required federal offices to identify the presence of Kaspersky software on their systems and subsequently arrange for their complete removal within 90 days, citing national security concerns related to the company’s alleged ties Russian intelligence and other government agencies.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on congressional correspondence and will respond as appropriate,” DHS told The Washington Times.

Kaspersky has previously denied being in cahoots with Russia’s government or others. The company sued DHS in December over the ban, alleging it violated the company’s right to due process, and last month its attorneys asked a federal judge to grant a preliminary injunction halting the directive.

Reports published last year indicated that Russian spies exploited Kaspersky products to collect intelligence from the its users, including at least one instance in which state-sponsored hackers allegedly pilfered classified material from a National Security Agency employee’s home computer.

“The federal government must leverage all available resources to ensure that Kaspersky products have been completely removed from federal systems,” Mr. Smith said Thursday. “This includes identifying all actions needed to eliminate or mitigate the risk, even beyond the risk to federal systems.

“Given the serious nature of these concerns related to the Committee’s broader goal of uncovering all risks associated with Kaspersky, the Committee expects a full and complete response from the Department, including the requested briefing and production of the requested documents and communications, so that the committee can fulfill its oversight responsibility,” he said.

The Science panel has jurisdiction over the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which develops cybersecurity standards and guidelines for the federal government and recommendations for the private sector, Mr. Smith said.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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