President Barack Obama will have the authority to order preventive cyber attacks if the U.S. detects a potential threat from abroad. Officials consulted by several U.S. media say the administration wants to take action against the increasing number of attacks on computer networks in the country.
According to main stream media reports, Obama will sign a new executive order to take on new powers that enable him to start a new phase in American history: cyber wars. The Obama administration has recently studied the use of the available computer arsenal and its conclusion is that the president may assume such jurisdiction if a computer attack is sensed.
The Obama administration has worked on model legislation that would have passed both these powers as a framework of security standards to supposedly protect the country’s infrastructure as well as how the nation would respond to a cyber attack. The bill backed by the White House was rejected by the opposition in Congress, so the president, as he has done since his first day in office, will use an executive order to expand his power.
Remember the talk of a presidential internet kill switch? This is it, and the power to turn it on and off will now be put on paper.
Obama’s gesture coincides with recent reports of attacks by Chinese hackers to several U.S. media, so one of Obama’s justification to sign a new executive order that gives him unlimited power to launch a cyber attack is that his propaganda machine must be spared from any attacks so that it can continue lying to people about Obama’s real intention to grab the web. As it is widely known, no part of the United States sensitive infrastructure is ‘online’.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta used scare tactics last fall when he warned about a new “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could cause massive damage to American infrastructure. He mentioned that hackers could “derail passenger trains or cargo trains loaded with deadly chemicals” and that “there are cases in which intruders have gained access to control systems “of various parts of U.S. infrastructure. The Obama administration argues that any such attacks would be treated as an “act of war”.
The U.S. Department of Defense already created a new cyber command and ordered some sectors to increase its budget within the Army. Current legislation states that the U.S. can only carry out anti terrorist missions in those countries where it is involved in a war, but the new rules would allow the president and intelligence agencies to access foreign networks in order to detect possible attacks targeting the U.S. or introduce computer viruses into their systems to prevent operation. That is exactly what the United States and Israel did to Iran last year even though there wasn’t any legislation approved neither by the Congress nor the president. What politicians in Washington are doing right now is simply coding what they’ve been doing for a long time. Of course any and all details about the so-called preemptive cyber attacks will remain secret.
The U.S. used cyber war to carry out an offensive against Iran, focusing exclusively on the infrastructure of its uranium enrichment plant, which in itself could have cause a massive nuclear accident. The project, inherited from the Bush administration, managed to block the operation of Iran’s nuclear program by introducing a computer virus in their systems, which showed that a nation’s infrastructure can be disabled or destroyed without previous warning and without bombarding buildings or civilian populations.
Experts say cyber warfare could cause serious damage to attack targets such as the U.S. financial system or transport networks. What those experts don’t point out is that very few nations, a dozen or less, have the technical capability to carry out such attacks, and that in the military community everyone knows who those countries are. Therefore, no preemptive strikes are needed. All it is needed is to remain vigilant instead of granting the president even more power than he already has.
What the United States is essentially saying is, do as we say, not as we do. The idea that the Americans intend to establish cooperation and exchange of information with governments and private entities in order to prevent a cyber Pearl Harbor, is as real as Santa Claus. The U.S. is simply announcing to the world that its next battlefield for conquest will be the world wide web, a territory rarely seen as the next stage in global warfare.
According to news reports, Obama’s main focus will be to prevent intrusions into the systems that manage the energy, finances chemical and basic services networks, none of which are ‘online’ or need to be online. The Obama Administration has publicly defended the U.S. response to cyber warfare, saying that it should focus both on preventing attacks as well as strengthening their computer systems to reduce the potential consequences of such an attack.
Since the supposed cyber attacks may not come from a nation, but could come from so-called terrorists groups, it is unlikely preemptive cyber attacks will be a real solution to them. The new power grab led by the Obama administration is mostly about grabbing the web to conduct its own terror plots, much like the United States has done in the physical world up until today. U.S. military dominance will extend itself from the ‘real’ world to cyber space.
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Contributed by Luis Miranda of The Real Agenda.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute.