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Obama Assumes Secret Powers to Pre-Empt Cyber-Attack, Bibi Rattles Sabers Against Iran

The NY Times reports that the Obama administration, continuing its aggressive approach to national security threats, has issued a secret ruling giving the president broad power to pre-emptively attack any nation or group planning a cyber-attack against the U.S. Wow. This is a rabbit hole that is wide and deep. Once you enter it there’s no telling where it will lead. Does it mean that when the Chinese hack into our own military computers or disable a network we can attack their computer systems? Or a physical target? Does it mean that because Iran is targeting our banks that we can target theirs? Or that we can be even more aggressive than that?

Lest you argue that Obama would be carefully proportional in the way in which he would pursue such pre-emptive attacks, is that the way you see our drone targeted killing program going? With thousands of civilians dead in multiple Middle Eastern nations from Somalia to Afghanistan?

Haaretz is reporting a possible cyber-attack on Israel’s cell phone system. It curtailed service for millions of Israeli users for several hours tonight:

Security officials were checking whether this was a malfunction, or a cyber-attack. The problem with the Pelephone network was apparently caused by the collapse of all the main switches that channel calls throughout the network. Security experts believe it is highly likely that this was due to a cyber-attack.

“It is very possible that an attack occurred there, which included a Trojan Horse that shut down a number of critical junctures in the network,” an expert said. According to the experts, the probability is very low that such a systems collapse, including all backups, was due to an internal failure.

On a related subject, Bibi Netanyahu appealed to his political rivals to join him in a national unity government. From the tenor of his statement it sounded an awful lot like he would use the fig leaf of such “unity” to launch his own pre-emptive attack against Iran:

“The supreme mission that a national unity government will face is stopping Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, according to a release from his office. “This is all the more complicated because Iran has equipped itself with new centrifuges that shorten the enrichment time. We cannot countenance this process.” He was referring to an Iranian announcement last week that it was about to install a new generation of uranium enrichment equipment.

What’s new and ominous about this statement is that it represents yet another moving of that proverbial red line. Israel used to place it at the point when Iran had assembled enough of the components for a nuclear weapon (Barak’s notorious “zone of immunity”). Now it appears that a major Iranian upgrade of its enrichment program is enough to rain down Israeli (or U.S.) munition on Bushehr, Natanz and Fordo. At least if this belligerent bellicosity is to be believed.

There’s another possibility, of course. You never lose as an Israeli politician by rattling sabers. Threatening an Iran attack could be just the ticket for beckoning his political rivals to join him in a national unity government. Co-opting his opposition is a time-honored ploy of Netanyahu. Once he gathers them together under his umbrella he’s neutered them and arrogated to himself the freedom to go to war when and if he chooses to.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Joel February 4, 2013, 7:29 AM

    rabbi hole?

    • Richard Silverstein February 4, 2013, 6:25 PM

      @Joel: Thanks for the correction & to the few other readers who informed me about this strange Freudian typo.

      • mary February 5, 2013, 11:25 PM

        I was reading while drinking my morning coffee and it almost came out of my nose. Thanks for the laugh, Richard :)

  • Joel February 4, 2013, 9:07 PM
    • Richard Silverstein February 5, 2013, 2:49 AM

      @Joel: If it ain’t sabotage, then it’s just their shitty service & equipment!

  • mary February 5, 2013, 11:28 PM

    I hope whoever the saboteur is, that they know they also probably wiped out service to the West Bank, including the mobile phones of Palestinians. That is, if they care. But I would assume they didn’t. Interfering with phone service is a serious thing as it is, but even worse for people who aren’t living where landlines are available. It could mean life or death. Whoever did this, did a despicable thing.

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