Did POTUS Obama Order A New Cyber Attack?

Did POTUS Obama Order A New Cyber Attack?



Such is the provocative headline by an online article by Shane Harris in the March 28, 2014 edition of Foreign Policy, with the title above. Mr. Harris writes that “on June 21, 2013, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (CJCS) Gen. Martin Dempsey, issued a classified order authorizing the U.S. military to conduct an operation in cyberspace.” (see link above for the Execute Order). Mr. Harris reports that “the order came down through the military chain-of-command, from the POTUS Obama, through Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and then to CJCS Dempsey.” “The question,” he says, “is did the [U.S.] military actually launch a cyber attack on a computer network — which would be one of the few in documented history — as a result of the order?”

“That’s the intriguing possibility raised by an Air Force document released earlier this month,” he says, “that contains a single, veiled reference to a “execute order,” or a command to initiate military operations.” He adds that “one sentence in the 15-page document, which is filled with military jargon, states that command and control procedures governing the U.S. Air Force’s offensive and defensive operations in cyberspace “are addressed in a classified CJCS Execute Order (title classified) issued June 21, 2013. The existence of the document was first exposed by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists,” and is included as an attachment.

But, I believe Mr. Harris has “read too much” into this order and is leaping to a conclusion that isn’t justified by what the document does, and doesn’t say. Execute Orders are often nothing more than boiler-plate, broad-based policy statements that lay out the parameters and mandate for carrying out a particular mission or task — and, not necessarily in regards to a particular operation. Mr. Harris acknowledges as much in his article; but, not before hinting that it may well mean something more important and profound with respect to a cyber offensive operation. Mr. Harris, “protests too much” on this order and has connected “dots” that don’t exist. Furthermore, if such an operation were approved, let’s hope that its disclosure never sees the light of day and stays hidden in the shadows. V/R, RCP


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