Obama’s Secret Cyberwars

I sort of get the feeling that the entire legislative effort on cyberwar is going on in a classified annex.

Nevertheless, even from what we can see, we’ve got a dispute. As I noted a few weeks back, The House Armed Services Committee included a provision that explicitly granted DOD the power to conduct clandestine cyberwar activities in some situations, but required quarterly briefing on such activities.


(a) AFFIRMATION.—Congress affirms that the Secretary of Defense is authorized to conduct military activities in cyberspace.

(b) AUTHORITY DESCRIBED.—The authority referred to in subsection (a) includes the authority to carry out a clandestine operation in cyberspace—

(1) in support of a military operation pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (50 U.S.C. 1541 note; Public Law 107–40) against a target located outside of the United States; or

(2) to defend against a cyber attack against an asset of the Department of Defense.

(c) BRIEFINGS ON ACTIVITIES.—Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and quarterly thereafter, the Secretary of Defense shall provide a briefing to the Committees on Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the Senate on covered military cyberspace activities that the Department of Defense carried out during the preceding quarter.

(d) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Secretary of Defense to conduct military activities in cyberspace.

That seemed to be a response to earlier claims by DOD that it didn’t have to brief such things to Congress.

As it happens, that’s another of the sections of the Defense Authorization to which the Administration objects (though they did not issue a veto threat on it).

Military Activities in Cyberspace: The Administration agrees that appropriate military operations in cyberspace are a vital component of national security, but objects to Section 962. The Administration has concerns about this provision and wants to work with Congress to ensure that any such legislation adds clarity and value to our efforts in cyberspace.

The choice by administrations to conduct cyberwar under DOD’s auspices rather than CIA’s as a way to avoid oversight is something that John Rizzo (!) warned about. And the bill has already given the Administration an extra three months of secret cyberwar before it has to start briefing Congress compared to the original bill.

What kind of war is Obama waging in cyberspace it refuses to tell Congress about?

  1. MadDog says:

    …What kind of war is Obama waging in cyberspace it refuses to tell Congress about?

    Shorter National Security State to Congress: “You’re not on the Need-To-Know list. Piss off!”

  2. rugger9 says:

    Very interesting, perhaps this is a reason they cannot fix their IT security flaws, because the DOD is too busy waging cyberwars? Or are they baiting traps?

    The trouble with cyberwars (along with the more conventional versions) is that there are side effects and collateral damage. In the cyber version, the ability to detect and unravel/fix the damage is far harder. And the damage could be far higher (remember the stock market fizzles a few years back cause by unrestricted program trading), potentially collapsing the West.

    Of course that would require rational thought regarding outcomes in the DOD, not always known for thinking. Most of the guys I worked with while at Grey Hull are sharp, but more than a few (especially the politically connected ones frequently in charge now) are on the Dougie Feith level of competence on thinking ahead.

    • emptywheel says:

      I sort of wonder whether they’re hiding a war against Wikileaks they don’t want to brief Congress on until its over.

      Or lingering fallout from Stuxnet, but they can’t not have briefed that, can they?

      • MadDog says:

        Could be Wikileaks, or even Stuxnet II, III, IV, etc. I can’t think that they stopped with just Stuxnet I.

      • bobschacht says:

        I sort of wonder whether they’re hiding a war against Wikileaks they don’t want to brief Congress on until its over.

        Bingo! Best guess yet! My money’s on this possibility.
        When was the last Wikileaks release?

        And whatever happened to those papers from the major bank that Assange was about to release months ago? I’ll bet they have Assange boxed in, so that he can’t release anything more without revealing critical Wikileaks infrastructure.

        One more target in this cyberwar: Anonymous. S/he’s been rather quiet lately, too, hasn’t s/he? I’ll bet s/he’s lying low, too, for fear of being traced and exposed.

        Bob in AZ

  3. MadDog says:

    OT – Just up at Wired:

    Lamo Summoned to Washington for Bradley Manning Prosecution

    Almost one year to the day Army investigators arrested intelligence analyst Bradley Manning on suspicion of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, the ex-hacker who turned him in is set to meet with the chief prosecutor on the case for the first time.

    I’m finally going to meet with the JAG officer to go over the preliminaries for the actual testimony and how they want to play out my role,” Lamo said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It’s the first time I’ve met with them.”

    The meeting is set for June 2nd and 3rd in Washington D.C., and marks the first outward sign that Manning’s court martial case is proceeding apace now that a lengthy inquiry into his mental health has concluded…

    …Over the last year, Lamo has had almost weekly telephone contact with a “handler” at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, but is uncertain about what will transpire next month when he meets with the chief military prosecutor, and a deputy, in Manning’s court martial case…

    (My Bold)

    Role? I suppose one has to memorize one’s lines if one is playing a role.