By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, citing warnings by President Barack Obama and National Intelligence Director James Clapper about the threat of attacks on computer networks, on Wednesday announced the creation of the city's first "Cyber Intrusion Command Center."
The command center, which will be operated with the assistance of the FBI and Secret Service, will be staffed by cyber security experts who will scan the city's computer networks for threats and quickly respond to breaches, according to the mayor's office.
"I'm creating this Cyber Intrusion Command Center so that we have a single, focused team responsible for implementing enhanced security standards across city departments and serving as a rapid reaction force to cyber-attacks," Garcetti said in a written statement.
"Cybersecurity means protecting the basic services at the core of city government, and it means protecting our critical infrastructure like our port and airport, which we know are top targets," he said.
The mayor's directive also calls on all departments in America's second-largest city to establish liaisons with the command center and report computer threats and "significant cyber-related events" to its staff.
In his executive directive ordering creation of the command center, Garcetti pointed to a February 2013 order by Obama in which the president called cyber threats one of the most serious economic and national security challenges facing the country.
He also noted that Clapper, in testifying before Congress in March and April of 2013, warned of state and non state actors "using cyber techniques and capabilities to achieve strategic objectives by gathering sensitive information from public and private sector entities."
Clapper, head of the National Security Agency, has been in the spotlight again this week as he defends his beleaguered organization in front of Congress over reports that the NSA collected data on millions of phone calls in Europe.
The hearing took place as Congress considers new legislative proposals that could limit the NSA's more expansive electronic intelligence collection programs, details of which have been leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.
But Garcetti press deputy Vicki Curry said the Cyber Intrusion Command Center was geared toward more mundane Internet threats.
"We're more concerned about city operations. Our traffic systems, our street services," she said, adding that officials were also worried about identity theft involving city employees or hackers who might compromise systems.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)