Obama Administration Plans to Use NSA to Defend Civilian Agency Networks

The Obama administration is set to revive a Bush-era program to use National Security Agency assistance in screening government computer traffic on private-sector networks, FOX News has confirmed.

The program will review only data going to or from government systems, Department of Homeland Security officials told the Washington Post, which first reported the story.

According to the newspaper, the program has sparked controversy within the Department of Homeland Security because of uncertainty over whether private data can shielded from unauthorized scrutiny, how much of a role NSA should play and whether the agency's involvement in warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration would draw criticism.

"We absolutely intend to use the technical resources, the substantial ones, that NSA has," the department's secretary, Janet Napolitano, told reporters in a discussion of cybersecurity efforts. "But...they will be guided, led, and in a sense directed by the people we have at the Department of Homeland Security."

DHS spokeswoman Amu Kudwa told FOX News that reports of internal strife are "off base."

"We're committed to moving forward with intrusion detection and prevention for federal civil networks," she said. "It's an important security measure but it's equally important that it be outfitted with the privacy and civil liberties protections that Americans expect."

A DHS official emphasized that in forming the plan, the agency "engaged with privacy and civil liberties" groups and "walked them through what they're doing."

The official said the agency is going to operate a pilot program so civil liberties groups can see exactly how it's going to work. 

The Obama administration is likely to choose AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications firm, as the likely test site. The Bush administration picked AT&T to participate in the test, which has been delayed for months as the Obama administration determines which elements of the Bush plan to preserve, former government officials told the newspaper. 

Click here to read the Washington Post report.

FOX News' Mike Levine contributed to this report.