More Secret Powers for the President…This Time, It’s Cyberwarfare

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

President Barack Obama and his aides have decided that the commander-in-chief has the authority to order a “first strike” in the cyberwar against U.S. enemies.


With a classified legal document in support, the White House concluded that the president of the United States can order a pre-emptive attack using cyberweapons on an enemy preparing to launch its own online assault on American targets.


The decision follows recent developments within the administration to prepare for and respond to the growing threat of cyberattacks. This included creating the first-ever Cyber Command within the Department of Defense, which is being rapidly expanded with thousands of new cyberwarriors ready to respond to foreign hackers and large-scale malware assaults.


John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and his nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, played a critical role in developing the administration’s new policies regarding cyberwarfare.


To date, the president has reportedly approved only one use of cyberweapons, that being a series of software attacks on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. Code-named Olympic Games, the assaults were first crafted inside the Pentagon under President George W. Bush.


Presidential advisors decided that cyberweapons were powerful enough to warrant the same importance, in terms of authorization, as nuclear weaponry.


“There are very, very few instances in cyberoperations in which the decision will be made at a level below the president,” an administration official privately told The New York Times.


This means the administration has rejected the use of “automatic” retaliation in the event a cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure is detected, no matter how fast a virus might move or spread, according to the newspaper. Any response would still require a green light from the Oval Office.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Broad Powers Seen for Obama in Cyberstrikes (by David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, New York Times)

Obama's Cyber Attack (Wall Street Journal)

Pentagon Will Expand Cyber Force by 4,000 to Counter Mounting Online Attacks (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Pentagon Classifies Cyber-Attack as Act of War (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



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