Obama can 'order pre-emptive cyber-attack' if U.S. faces threat

Obama can 'order pre-emptive cyber-attack' if U.S. faces threat

Summary: According to a source speaking to The New York Times, President Obama can authorize a 'pre-emptive strike' against a nation if U.S. national security is at risk.

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(Credit: White House)

At a time where the U.S. continues to work on its cyber-warfare strategy, a 'secret legal review' of the use of America's cyber-arsenal has concluded that the U.S. government can launch a cyber-attack against a threatening nation if the country needs to defend itself.

But the decision ultimately falls to the commander-in-chief, President Obama, in what could ultimately be considered an act of war on the world stage.

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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano suggested Congress should pass legislation similar to CISPA, in order to avoid a calamitous end to American civilization.

According to a piece by The New York Times—which in recent weeks suffered its own spate of cyber-attacks by the Chinese—a source within the administration speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the new cyber-policies have set the way for the military and U.S. intelligence agencies to deploy cyberweapons against other nations.

It comes at a time where Obama's second-term administration is currently reviewing the range of cyber-weapons the country has in its possession in order to determine how to protect U.S. critical national infrastructure and national interests from online cyber-attacks.

According to The Times, the decision for the president to authorize such a pre-emptive attack is "among several" other decisions reached in recent weeks and months, as the administration remains poised to "approve the nation's first rules for how the military can defend, or retaliate, against a major cyberattack."

One described exception would allow U.S. authorities to disable an adversary's air defense system during a tactical drone strike, for instance. But, on the most part, the administration's review would focus on what "constitutes reasonable and proportional force" to preventing or striking back against a cyber-attack.

Such new policies will allow the U.S. responds to potential attacks on its systems and infrastructure "by injecting... adversaries... with destructive code," even if there is no declaration of war.

After all, in this day and age, information and data security is just as important as anti-aircraft defenses and a secure national border. A cyber-attack can be just as precise and as damaging as a nuclear strike, but one will kill potentially hundreds of thousands in seconds while the other will—at least on the most part—affect inanimate and non-living infrastructure. 

It comes only a fortnight after the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that U.S. networks were vulnerable to hackers and that critical U.S. national infrastructure—including water, electricity, and gas networks—could be hit by a "cyber-9/11".

According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, taking the words from his Homeland Security colleague, the 'red line" in which U.S. authorities would strike back, would have to resemble a "cyber 9/11."

One of the more significant parts of the U.S.' cyber-warfare strategy was Stuxnet, a worm that attacked Iranian nuclear facilities, which first came to light in 2010, but the Obama administration is not believed to have since been part of or involved in similar known efforts. 

Topics: Government US, Security

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16 comments
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  • I wish Janet Napolitano...

    would leave politics and take up knitting or something instead.
    dtdono0
    • One doesn't leave politics...

      ...or any other profession to take up knitting. Those who knit typically do so in their spare time (I had a female colleague in a former job who used to knit on her lunch break).
      John L. Ries
      • I'm sure only concentrating on full-time knitting...

        would be hard enough for JN to successfully do.

        Someone who thinks the TSA is still needed 10 years after 9/11 needs to get their head checked.
        dtdono0
  • I'm rather dubious about this one

    The U.S.A got along very well without a policy of pre-emptive strikes for over 2 centuries. I'm not convinced they're necessary now.

    I'm guessing, though, that the CIA already tries to hack into foreign governments' computers and often succeeds.
    John L. Ries
    • Well..

      It'd be the NSA that does that. But I don't know anything about this. And you don't either, if you know what I mean.
      This conversation never happened.
      jetsethi
      • Good point

        I stand corrected.
        John L. Ries
    • why would they need to "hack" anything

      if the whole world except for some parts of China and some parts of Russia uses US-developed hardware and (to lesser degree) software
      nitekatt
      • That doesn't mean...

        ...that the U.S. government has easy access to the contents of foreign servers, unless, of course, you believe that "patriotic" OS developers like MS routinely build a backdoor into their products and secretly give access to it to U.S. government agencies.
        John L. Ries
      • Why Would They Need . . .

        The whole world doesn't use U.S. developed hardware. Even the U.S. uses China-developed chips. With backdoors designed in at the factory to provide that "seamless" performance boost. Yes, you're right that the technology is - or was - U.S. Remember, though, Clinton sold it to the Chinese, what was left after the many spies he let in finished transmitting the basic datastack to the Ministry of State Security in Beijing. Then Obama finished the job during his first term.
        shovelDriver
  • My mind

    My mind is a registered cyber weapon, everyone. So keep that fact in mind before deciding whether to hit the "Vote" button or the "Flag" button on this post.
    dsf3g
  • Cyber war is not easy...

    What goes around comes around... If the west remembers the Afgan war against the soviets...its a good lesson, al-qaeda was the love child of that war...Unleashing 'cyber-weapons' is not a good idea.
    Owlll1net
    • maybe exactly because of this it is a good idea

      something that will lead to big, big profits for interested parties
      nitekatt
    • maybe exactly because of this it is a good idea

      something that will lead to big, big profits for interested parties
      nitekatt
  • the "Obama Decision Tree"

    Obama can order a pre-emptive strike . . . So could any Commander-in-Chief. This isn't news. In any case, even if he did order such a strike, he'd make sure to pass a diplomatic note via "the Hillary" beforehand, to ensure his sympaticos had time to prepare. That would also give his lamestream media cohorts-in-crime time to prep editorials and place biased articles to "inform public opinion".
    shovelDriver
  • Cyber-attacks

    Is it just Obama who can order the cyber-attacks or any other (future) President as well? Just asking.
    Robvdvelden
  • Boston

    Looks to me that it's had the desired effect tighter controls on the people, more spying on the citizens and more power held by the corporately purchased government what more could big business want!
    wizardb@...