MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Nearly lost in the scandal of domestic data mining, spyng and possible phone call monitoring of US citizens revealed by Glenn Greenwald is an article he co-authored on June 7. In the Guardian UK piece, Greenwald and co-author Ewen MacAskill discuss the implications of President Obama authorizing the targeting of nations, organizations, and just about anybody for US government initiated cyber-attacks.
(Here is the full document obtained by Greenwald and the Guardian and sub-titled by the paper, "Eighteen-page presidential memo reveals how Barack Obama has ordered intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber attacks.")
The directive focuses on overseas targets, which some might think is necessary in an age when digital technology may be as powerful a weapons as bombs and military might in wielding global power. But that raises the concerns that cyber-warfare may lead to military conflict. As the article cautions:
In the presidential directive, the criteria for offensive cyber operations in the directive is not limited to retaliatory action but vaguely framed as advancing "US national objectives around the world". The revelation that the US is preparing a specific target list for offensive cyber-action is likely to reignite previously raised concerns of security researchers and academics, several of whom have warned that large-scale cyber operations could easily escalate into full-scale military conflict.
But the domestic implications of the Obama directive also put the Internet within the United States at peril, with the potential for overseas "enemies" once again threatening – as with the so-called "Patriot Act" – domestic freedom:
Earlier this year, the Pentagon publicly accused China for the first time of being behind attacks on the US. The Washington Post reported last month that Chinese hackers had gained access to the Pentagon's most advanced military programs.
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, identified cyber threats in general as the top national security threat.Obama officials have repeatedly cited the threat of cyber-attacks to advocate new legislation that would vest the US government with greater powers to monitor and control the internet as a means of guarding against such threats.
One such bill currently pending in Congress, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa), has prompted serious concerns from privacy groups, who say that it would further erode online privacy while doing little to enhance cyber security.
So the threat of cyber-attacks from abroad is being used to leverage passage of legislation that would tighten government control over the Internet within the United States.
It is widely believed that the US and Israel jointly launched the Stuxnet cyber-attack on Iranian's nuclear program, in specific its centrifuges. And there is widespread speculation that cyber-attacks on a smaller scale are already being undertaken by US intelligence agencies.
This is likely occurring even as the US is accusing China of using cyber assaults and hacking to retrieve both military and corporate secrets from US servers. As with drones, this cyber warfare is dependent upon a technological knowledge and capability that the United States cannot keep from spreading. This means that the possibilities for blowback against our own security are highly probable.
As for assurances that Americans will not be the targets of cyber-attacks, Greenwald and his co-author are hardly optimistic:
The directive provides that any cyber-operations "intended or likely to produce cyber effects within the United States" require the approval of the president, except in the case of an "emergency cyber action". When such an emergency arises, several departments, including the department of defense, are authorized to conduct such domestic operations without presidential approval.
So we have a president who has an assassination list and decides or delegates who shall live and who shall die; we have a president who has authorized the vast intelligence apparatus of the United States government to gather private data and communication records of American citizens; and now courtesy of the Guardian UK, we discover that we may be subject to cyber-attacks without even presidential approval when there is an "emergency."
Who is to say that this won't be used against environmentalists, whistleblowers, the Occupy Movement, journalists and any person or organization that advocates for changing the status quo.
Is the surveillance and cyber-attack state being built to protect the citizens of the United State or to protect the corporate/political ruling elite from the citizens of the United States?
The evidence keeps mounting that it is the latter, incrementally creeping in upon us like a dark blinding fog.