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President can order preemptive cyberattacks if needed

Jaikumar Vijayan | Feb. 6, 2013
A secret review of American policies governing the use of cyberweapons has concluded that President Barack Obama has the broad power to order pre-emptive strikes on any country preparing to launch a major digital attack against the U.S.

While many see the moves as vital to protecting American interests in cyberspace, others worry that the efforts at building an offensive capability are misdirected.

"Indeed, the Obama Administration has been so intent on responding to the cyber threat with martial aggression that it hasn't paused to consider the true nature of the threat," wrote Thomas Rid, a Reader in War Studies at King's College in London and a non-resident fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

"And that has lead to two crucial mistakes: first, failing to realize (or choosing to ignore) that offensive capabilities in cyber security don't translate easily into defensive capabilities. And second, failing to realize (or choosing to ignore) that it is far more urgent for the United States to concentrate on developing the latter, rather than the former," Rid wrote.

It is a position shared by others. "It does seem as though the U.S. is ramping up its offensive capabilities a hell of a lot more than preparing for defensive resiliency," wrote Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University in a blog post Monday. "In an arena populated by non-state actors and quasi-non-state actors, defense would seem to me to be a far more important concern."


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