Computer Crime Research Center

Bush orders guidelines for cyber-war

President Bush has signed a secret directive ordering the government to develop, for the first time, national-level guidance for determining when and how the United States would launch cyber-attacks against enemy computer networks, according to administration officials.

SIMILAR TO STRATEGIC doctrine that has guided the use of nuclear weapons since World War II, the cyber-warfare guidance would establish the rules under which the United States would penetrate and disrupt foreign computer systems.

The United States has never conducted a large-scale, strategic cyber-attack, according to several senior officials. But the Pentagon has stepped up development of cyber-weapons, envisioning a day when electrons might substitute for bombs and allow for more rapid and less bloody attacks on enemy targets. Instead of risking planes or troops, military planners imagine soldiers at computer terminals silently invading foreign networks to shut down radars, disable electrical facilities and disrupt phone services.

Bush s action highlights the administration s keen interest in pursuing a new form of weaponry that many specialists say has great potential for altering the means of waging war, but that until now has lacked presidential rules for deciding the circumstances under which such attacks would be launched, who should authorize and conduct them and what targets would be considered legitimate.

We have capabilities, we have organizations; we do not yet have an elaborated strategy, doctrine, procedures, said Richard A. Clarke, who last week resigned as special adviser to the president on cyberspace security.

ORDER SIGNED MONTHS AGO
Bush signed the order, known as National Security Presidential Directive 16, last July but it has not been disclosed publicly until now. The guidance is being prepared amid speculation that the Pentagon is considering some offensive computer operations against Iraq if the president decides to go to war over Baghdad s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons development programs.

Whatever might happen in Iraq, you can be assured that all the appropriate approval mechanisms for cyber-operations would be followed, said an administration official who declined to confirm or deny whether such planning was underway.

Despite months of discussions involving principally the Pentagon, CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, officials say a number of issues remain far from resolved. There s been an initial step by the president to say we need to establish broad guidelines, a senior administration official said. We re trying to be thorough and thoughtful about this. I expect the process will end in another directive, the first of its kind in this area, setting the foundation.

The current state of planning for cyber-warfare has frequently been likened to the early years following the invention of the atomic bomb a half-century ago, when thinking about how to wage nuclear war lagged the ability to launch one.

We have capabilities, we have organizations; we do not yet have an elaborated strategy, doctrine, procedures, said Richard A. Clarke, who last week resigned as special adviser to the president on cyberspace security.

ORDER SIGNED MONTHS AGO
Bush signed the order, known as National Security Presidential Directive 16, last July but it has not been disclosed publicly until now. The guidance is being prepared amid speculation that the Pentagon is considering some offensive computer operations against Iraq if the president decides to go to war over Baghdad s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons development programs.

Whatever might happen in Iraq, you can be assured that all the appropriate approval mechanisms for cyber-operations would be followed, said an administration official who declined to confirm or deny whether such planning was underway.

Despite months of discussions involving principally the Pentagon, CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, officials say a number of issues remain far from resolved. There s been an initial step by the president to say we need to establish broad guidelines, a senior administration official said. We re trying to be thorough and thoughtful about this. I expect the process will end in another directive, the first of its kind in this area, setting the foundation.

The current state of planning for cyber-warfare has frequently been likened to the early years following the invention of the atomic bomb a half-century ago, when thinking about how to wage nuclear war lagged the ability to launch one.

Source: theMezz.com

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