The US has a history of false flag attacks being used as excuses to start wars. The problem is, to be effective, false flag attacks require bombs, blood, death...
Now, the Wall Street Journal reports in a top headline, front page article, Cyber Combat: Act of War,
that the US is working on developing a policy that defines cyber attacks-- hacks, computer sabotage-- which cause damage or death, including damage to our economy, as acts of war.
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One idea gaining momentum at the Pentagon is the notion of "equivalence." If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a "use of force" consideration, which could merit retaliation.
The article reports that the military will consider such acts to be cause to retaliate with military, hard weapon attacks.
In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," said a military official.
With a recent history of attacks on Lockheed Martin, attacks on the banking system in Estonia, the use of the Stuxnet worm to destroy nuclear centrifuges in Iran, the idea of a cyber attack or hacking as an act of war is being codified. The US military is working with allies to define some of the parameters.
But this policy will open up other possibilities as well, and make it much easier for the same kinds of people who use false flag attacks to start previous wars and conflicts.
I asked David Swanson, author of War Is A Lie, his take on this development. He replied:
Treating computer sabotage as war is another leap beyond treating the crimes of a terrorist group as war. It opens the door to wars the Pentagon wanted anyway. The Pentagon will not be going into wars it opposes and wants to avoid, even if there is a "cyber-attack" to respond to. The Pentagon will, however, jump at any justification for a war it already wanted. And this, of course, makes more likely the provocation of computer sabotage, the faking of computer sabotage, and/or the accidental misinterpretation of computer sabotage. Given how many accidents have nearly taken us into nuclear war over the decades, do we really want this door opened?
But here's the catch: it doesn't matter what we want. The Pentagon openly tells the President how many troops to escalate or withdraw. The CIA openly tells the President what war crimes must not be prosecuted. We have special forces in many countries and a war in Libya, completely outside any rule of law. The Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that passed the House on Thursday and now goes to the Senate unconstitutionally gives the President the "legal" power to make war almost anywhere anytime. A President/Pentagon with that power will feel itself entitled to launch wars on the flimsiest of justifications. Assertions that a "cyber war" has been started by someone else whose nation must now be bombed or occupied will be no more verifiable by the American public or the Congress than the official outputs of electronic voting machines. Nothing good can come of this.
Let's be clear that the military is talking about defining cyber aggression that causes financial damage a comparable to something like a naval blockade that causes financial damage. The theory is that both would be seen as acts of war that would warrant violent military attacks, with firepower.
I also asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern for his take on this development. Here's his reply:
Smokestacks? At last count, China has 3,456,962 smokestacks; Iran only 1,298,135. And there are countless other possible enemies with equally countless smokestacks. This means, of course, the U.S. war industry will have to get busy producing at least as many missiles, drones, etc. to do the job. It will be expensive, but other priorities will have to wait. This will make us all much more secure. Right.
And how will we know about who attacked us and which country must be held responsible. No problem. UIF Gen. Keith Alexander, who leads not only the National Security Agency but also the new Pentagon agency on cyber warfare, can be counted on not only to serve up pure, unadulterated intelligence, but to carry out cyber countermeasures. UIF? It stands for "un-indicted felon." It is a felony to lie to Congress -- the more so in violation of a formal oath to uphold the Constitution in discharge of one's official duties. And that is precisely what Gen. Alexander did. It is no secret.
Alexander lied to House Intelligence Committee member Rush Holt (D-NJ) in December 2005 when Holt asked him directly whether NSA was taking part in warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens. Unfortunately for Alexander, the New York Times published the true story just days later. At the time Congresman Holt reportedly declared that he would see to it that Alexander would never be promoted.
So who's afraid of Congress? Far from being reprimanded, Alexander got his fourth star AND a new, highly sensitive agency to head. So relax, fellow Americans, we are all safe in his hands.
Will this new policy lead to new conspiracy theories? Undoubtedly. The problem is, the worst damage will be done by the "conspiracy theories" that the military and the White House define as real Digital attacks.
Yes. It is absolutely necessary to develop policies for dealing with and more important, preventing cyber attacks of all kinds. But it is difficult to imagine ANY circumstance where a cyber-attack would justify an armed weapons attack. There is such a huge risk that the wrong perpetrator will be accused, for one thing, and we have seen again and again that revenge does not help.
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