The Ugly Truth Behind Obama's Cyber-War
Last week, a top U.S. government intelligence official named James Clapper warned Congress that the threat of somebody using the Internet to attack the United States is "even more pressing than an attack by global terrorist networks". At about the same time, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, announced that the government is forming 13 teams to conduct an international "cyber offensive" to pre-empt or answer "Internet attacks" on this country.
This, as they say, means war.
Clapper issued his melodramatic assessment during an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. As Director of National Intelligence, he testified jointly with the heads of the CIA and FBI as part of their annual "Threat To the Nation" assessment report.
While undoubtedly important, these "threat assessment" appearances are usually a substitute for sleeping pills. The panel of Intelligence honchos parades out a list of "threats" ranked by a combination of potential harm and probability of attack. Since they began giving this report (shortly after 9/11), "Islamic fundamentalist terrorist networks" have consistently ranked number one. Hence the sleep-provoking predictability of it all.
But Clapper's ranking of "cyber terrorism" as the number one threat would wake up Rip Van Winkle.
"Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable," he intoned. "Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive." After probably provoking a skipped heartbeat in a Senator or two, he added that he didn't think any major attack of this type was imminent or even feasible at this point.
So why use such "end of the world" rhetoric to make a unfeasible threat number one?
The answer perhaps was to be found in the House of Representatives where, on that same day, Gen. Alexander was testifying before the Armed Services Committee about, you got it, "cyber-war".
Besides being head of the NSA, Alexander directs the United States Cyber Command. I'm not joking. Since 2010, the United States military has had a "Cyber Command", comprised of a large network of "teams" some of whose purpose is to plan and implement what he called "an offensive strategy".
Up to now, the Obama Adminstration's stated policy has been to prioritize protection and defense of its own Internet and data systems and, unsurprisingly, those of U.S. corporations. Now we realize that the President has been cooking another dish on the back burner. When these military leaders talk about "offensive strategy", they mean war and in warfare, the rules change and warriors see democracy as a stumbling block at least and a potential threat at worst.