But the president is less than candid about the tradeoffs the nation faces. The government must be given wider latitude than in the past to monitor private networks and respond to the most serious computer threats.

These new powers should be strictly defined and regularly vetted to ensure legal compliance and effectiveness. Last year’s amendments to the nation’s secret wiretapping regime are a useful model. They expanded the president’s secret wiretapping powers, but also required quasi-independent inspectors general in the Department of Justice and the intelligence community to review effectiveness and legal compliance and report to Congress regularly.

Many will balk at this proposal because of the excesses and mistakes associated with the secret wiretapping regime in the Bush administration. These legitimate concerns can be addressed with improved systems of review.