Ebay Exec to Join Homeland Security Department to Protect Nation’s Computer Networks

Howard Schmidt, a highly regarded technology executive at eBay Inc., who was former special adviser to President Bush for cybersecurity, is returning to work with the Homeland Security Department on efforts to protect the nation's computer networks.

Schmidt, the chief security officer for the San Jose, Calif.-based online auction company, will be named chairman of the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team, an organization jointly run by the Homeland Security Department and private technology groups, including Carnegie Mellon University. He will work as a liaison to foster good relationships with the private sector, DHS spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich said late Wednesday.

Schmidt's new role for DHS was expected to be revealed Monday in San Francisco at an industry meeting. Schmidt and Robert Liscouski, an assistant secretary at Homeland Security, briefed some officials in Washington on Wednesday about the plans.

Schmidt, who will be paid through Carnegie Mellon as a government contractor, was expected to remain at eBay. As Bush's former special adviser, Schmidt helped create the administration's "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace,'' a set of dozens of recommendations to better protect computer networks.

"It's great he's willing to come back to public service,'' said Harris Miller, head of the Information Technology Association of America, a leading trade group.

Last week, the Bush administration's top U.S. cybersecurity official, Amit Yoran, resigned abruptly as director of the National Cyber Security Division within DHS. The office to be headed by Schmidt is the operational arm of that division, which has an $80 million budget and 60 employees.

Schmidt declined to comment when contacted by the AP, referring inquires to DHS.

Schmidt formerly was chief security officer at Microsoft Corp. before coming to work for the White House. He succeeded Richard Clarke, a former senior counterterrorism adviser to President Bush who quit and wrote a book containing scathing criticisms of the administration's response to terrorism.