The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
The Honorable Ellen E. McCarthy is the ChairWoman and CEO of the Trust in Media Cooperative. She also sits on advisory boards for Penn State Applied Research Lab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the George Mason National Security Institute, SAP NS2, Fortem Technologies, Exiger and Babel Street providing firsthand insights on artificial intelligence, cyber security, effective leadership, driving innovation and digital transformation. She was recently selected to be member of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.
Ms. Mccarthy has over three decades of national security service in a variety of leadership roles spanning numerous intelligence organizations and disciplines. From 2019 to 2021 she served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), where she led a team that provided intelligence insights and activities to support foreign policy and national security purposes. In this role, Ms. McCarthy focused on advancing INR intelligence integration across the State Department, especially at the missions and embassies around the world; expanding outreach, diversity and partnerships; and driving innovation.
From 2015-2018 she served as Chief Operating Officer of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency where she helped the Director lead the agency and drive transformation with a specific focus on leveraging private sector tools and capabilities and focusing government resources on unique and vital national security capabilities. She also championed agile governance, recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.
From 2004 to 2008, Ms. McCarthy was the Director of the Human Capital Management Office and the Acting Director of Security and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSD(I)). At DoD, she focused on policy development and strategy relating to intelligence reform, resource management, acquisitions, collection authorities, and personnel. Ms. McCarthy also served the Director of Intelligence Operations, Strategy, and Policy for the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and played a critical role in moving the USCG intelligence program into the IC, establishing Maritime Intelligence Fusion Centers, expanding USCG attaché presence worldwide, and establishing new intelligence and law enforcement collection capabilities.
Ms. McCarthy started her government career as an all-source intelligence analyst at the Office of Naval Intelligence and at Atlantic Fleet.
Ms. McCarthy’s government service was reinforced by experience gained in the private sector. From 2016-2019 she served as President of Noblis NSP, leading its mission to provide cybersecurity and data analyst tools and services to clients in the Intelligence Community (IC). From 2008 to 2012 she served as the President of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), which supports government policy and programs relating to cyber security, counterintelligence, acquisition, and homeland security.
Before joining the IC, she served as a technical research analyst at the Institute for Defense Analysis supporting the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization and a reporter at THE Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Ms. McCarthy is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Maryland.