Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace

The Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace, administration officials said Thursday, stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare. The military command would complement a civilian effort to be announced by President Obama on Friday that would overhaul the way the United States safeguards its computer networks. Initially at least, the new command would focus on organizing the various components and capabilities now scattered across the four armed services.

Officials declined to describe potential offensive operations, but said they now viewed cyberspace as comparable to more traditional battlefields.

“We are not comfortable discussing the question of offensive cyberoperations, but we consider cyberspace a war-fighting domain,“ said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. “We need to be able to operate within that domain just like on any battlefield, which includes protecting our freedom of movement and preserving our capability to perform in that environment.”

It was kept separate from the military debate over whether the Pentagon or the N.S.A. is best equipped to engage in offensive operations. Part of that debate hinges on the question of how much control should be given to American spy agencies, since they are prohibited from acting on American soil.

“It’s the domestic spying problem writ large,” one senior intelligence official said recently. “These attacks start in other countries, but they know no borders. So how do you fight them if you can’t act both inside and outside the United States?”

More at the NYT. Opinio Juris also covers the issue, asking:

Will the White House give the cyberczar authority over defending civilian targets, even though it’s easy to imagine that an attack on the New York Stock Exchange could come from terrorist or foreign militaries rather than the proverbial teenage hacker or individuals with criminal intentions?  And should the Pentagon treat all attacks on military information infrastructure as triggering cyberwarfare questions, including those that come from U.S. citizens like our proverbial teenage hacker?  Similarly, if we look to offensive cyberoperations, how much of a cyberattack can the Pentagon pursue without affecting civilian information networks (think, the Internet) and how often can it do so without risk of affecting U.S. resources or civilians in ways that might trod on the cyberczar’s turf?

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3 Responses

  1. CDT Releases Report Tracking Cyberspace Policy Review Privacy Action Items – CDT today released a report to help track the progress of the privacy “action items” contained in the Administration’s recently released Cyberspace Policy Review. The Review discusses a wide range of issues that the country needs to address in order to ensure that national security, economic and civil liberties interests are adequately protected. The action items outlined in the CDT report were derived from the Review and President’s subsequent remarks on the document. The action items that develop from these themes are offered to supplement the Review’s broader near and mid-term Action Plan for the incoming Cybersecurity Policy Official. June 19, 2009

    * CDT’s report, Privacy and the White House Cyberspace Policy Review: http://www.cdt.org/security/20090619_cybersec_actions.pdf

  2. Technology, Policy, Law, and Ethics Regarding U.S. Acquisition and Use of Cyberattack Capabilities (2009)

    http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12651&page=R1

    Front Matter (R1-R18)
    Synopsis (1-6)
    1. Overview, Findings, and Recommendations (7-58)
    Part I Framing and Basic Technology (59-60)
    2. Technical and Operational Considerations in Cyberattack and Cyberexploitation (61-126)
    Part II Mission and Institutional Perspectives (127-128)
    3. A Military Perspective on Cyberattack (129-152)
    4. An Intelligence Community Perspective on Cyberattack and Cyberexploitation (153-162)
    5. Perspectives on Cyberattack Outside of National Security (163-174)
    6. Decision Making and Oversight (175-192)
    Part III Intellectual Tools for Understanding and Thinking About Cyberattack (193-194)
    7. Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Cyberattack (195-240)
    8. Insights from Related Areas (241-248)
    9. Speculations on the Dynamics of Cyberconflict (249-262)
    10. Alternative Futures (263-278)
    Appendix A Biographies of Committee Members and Staff (279-286)
    Appendix B Meeting Participants and Other Contributors (287-288)
    Appendix C Illustrative Criminal Cyberattacks (289-294)
    Appendix D Views on the Use of Force in Cyberspace (295-298)
    Appendix E Technical Vulnerabilities Targeted By Cyber Offensive Actions (299-304)

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