House pushes bill to demand notice when Pentagon uses cyberweapons

The Pentagon would have two days to inform congressional oversight committees.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
(Image: file photo)

A new bill would require the Defense Department to inform congressional overseers within two days of launching a cyberweapon.

The measure, proposed by leading lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee, would apply to both offensive and defensive operations launched by the Pentagon to "defeat an ongoing or imminent threat," according to the text of the six-page bill.

The draft law allows two exceptions -- if the cyberweapons are launched during a training exercise, or authorized under covert action.

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Presumably, operations that are highly sensitive and intelligence-led would not be revealed until they are completed.

"While there are programs that must necessarily remain classified to keep the country safe," said Mac Thornerry (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a statement, "Congress still has a responsibility to conduct appropriate oversight in order to protect our security and our essential freedoms at the same time. This proposal to enhance congressional oversight of sensitive military cyber operations and cyber weapons will help achieve that balance by promoting greater transparency and accountability for some of the most classified elements of our national defense."

The previous Obama-led government only recently confirmed its use of cyberweapons, such as exploits and technologies used at disrupting the activities of the so-called Islamic State, other terrorist groups, and also including some hostile nation states.

But their efficacy has long been called into question. A report by The New York Times this week, which cited former US officials, said that the government's cyberweapons have largely led to "disappointment."

It's the latest in a series of legislative proposals in recent weeks aimed at greater oversight and curtailing the use of the government's cyberweapons.

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