Six years after the White House first started running amok on the computer networks of its adversaries, US President Barack Obama has signed off on a top-secret order that finally offers blueprints for the Pentagon’s cyberwars.
Pres. Obama has autographed an executive order outlining protocol and procedures for the US military to take in the name of preventing cyberattacks from foreign countries, the Washington Post reports, once and for all providing instructions from the Oval Office on how to manage the hush-hush assaults against opposing nation-states that have all been confirmed by the White House while at the same time defending America from any possible harm from abroad.
According to Post’s sources, namely “officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record,” Pres. Obama signed the paperwork in mid-October. Those authorities explain to the paper that the initiative in question, Presidential Policy Directive 20, “establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace.”
Confronting a threat may sound harmless, but begs to introduce a chicken-and-the-egg scenario that could have some very serious implications. The Post describes the directive as being “the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an ‘offensive’ and a ‘defensive’ action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism,” but the ambiguous order may very well allow the US to continue assaulting the networks of other nations, now with a given go-ahead from the commander-in-chief. Next in line, the Post says, will be rules of engagement straight from the Pentagon that will provide guidelines for when to carry out assaults outside the realm of what is considered ‘American’ in terms of cyberspace.
“What it does, really for the first time, is it explicitly talks about how we will use cyber operations,” one senior administration official tells the paper of the policy directive. “Network defense is what you’re doing inside your own networks. . . . Cyber operations is stuff outside that space, and recognizing that you could be doing that for what might be called defensive purposes.”
When The New York Times published an exposé on the White House’s so-called Olympics Games program earlier this year, the world became fully aware for once of America’s involvement in international cyberwar, but much to the chagrin of Washington. Officials including members of Pres. Obama’s national security team spoke on condition of anonymity to tell the Times that his predecessor, then-Pres. George W. Bush, began the program in 2006 to target Iran’s nuclear facilities and then passed it along to the current administration to continue under the leadership of the current commander-in-chief.
“From his first months in office,” David Sanger wrote for the Times, Pres. Obama “secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons.”