Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
Internet war spies
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – In the midst of all this worry about cutting defense spending, President Obama signed an executive order to boost U.S. defenses against cyber hacking. It didn’t cost a penny, at least not yet, but Obama is giving Congress fair warning that in the event of a serious external threat, the necessary funds better be there.
The recent revelation that much of the cyber hacking into U.S. computers originates from a Peoples Liberation Army unit in Shanghai supports Obama’s contention that strengthening America’s hand in cyber space is a matter of national security. The president highlighted the issue in his State of the Union speech earlier this month.
For Americans who have grown accustomed to hackers in all walks of life, Obama sought to raise awareness of the dangers of this new kind of warfare, telling the public why he felt compelled to move without waiting on Congress, revealing that he had signed an executive order and explaining why.
“We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.”
The president’s executive order is more of an alert than anything else. It focuses on the defense sector and orders the various players to share information and get geared up for this new era of Internet warfare. Despite the looming specter of sequestration and the chunk it could take out of the defense budget, there is little doubt if Obama asked for a significant amount of money to build up cyber defense, he would get it.
A credible outside threat would get a response from this Congress, and the answer to an Obama request wouldn’t be no, it would be how much?
The problem is that cyber warfare is vague and theoretical, just like the sequester, and until there is an attack that poses an existential threat – like cutting off power, paralyzing the banking system, or throwing air traffic control into chaos – it doesn’t register with the American public.
The war games that nations play in cyber space resemble video games, and we can only hope that generations of kids who grew up playing video games will be able to muster the right response at the computer terminal when the time comes.
It’s a very different era from when President Roosevelt launched the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb, and kept the secret from all but a very few in his administration. His own vice president, Harry Truman, knew nothing of it until he was informed after FDR died suddenly and would be sworn in as president.
When Truman met at Potsdam in July 1945 with the leaders of the allied powers, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, he got word that an atomic bomb test dubbed “Trinity” had been successful. He conveyed that information to Stalin, who did not seem at all surprised at this remarkable development of lethal power, saying only that he hoped that Truman would use it. Less than a month later, acting on Truman’s order, the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The point here is not to belabor the wisdom or the morality of that bomb, but to point out that Stalin knew everything about it, and was probably clued in before Truman. A Soviet spy ring had infiltrated the Manhattan Project. Cyber hacking is a new and even more ominous form of spying, and the threat it poses should give Obama the upper hand on defense, and put squabbling over sequestration into perspective.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND