Top secret US order calls on officials to identify targets for cyber attacks: report

09.06.2013 04:46

A top-secret US government
order calling for officials to
identify possible targets for
"offensive" cyber attacks has
been published by The Guardian
The 18-page order, reproduced by
the British publication, has been
acknowledged by the White House
but has never been published
before now.
The development comes just one
day after reports by The Guardian
and The Washington Post revealed
details of secret US surveillance
programs monitoring phone
records and mining data from
internet servers, including those of
Google, Facebook and Apple.
The latest reports say US president
Barack Obama ordered his senior
national security and intelligence
officials to draw up a list of
potential overseas targets for cyber
attacks to "advance US objectives
around the world".
The directive authorises "defensive"
and "offensive" actions by the US
military in cyberspace to deal with
The document also permits the US
secretary of defence to take
"emergency cyber actions" to
"mitigate an imminent threat".
White House national security
spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says
the classified directive, which has
been publicly acknowledged,
updated a similar directive dating
back to 2004.
"This directive establishes
principles and processes for the
use of cyber operations so that
cyber tools are integrated with the
fully array of national security
tools we have at our disposal," Mr
Hayden said in a statement.
"It provides a whole-of-
government approach consistent
with the values that we promote
domestically and internationally as
we have previously articulated in
the International Strategy for
She added the procedures outlined
in the directive "are consistent
with the US constitution, including
the president's role as commander
in chief, and other applicable law
and policies".
US on the offensive in
cyber war
The directive said the US
government will "identify potential
targets of national importance
where [offensive cyber actions] can
offer a favourable balance of
effectiveness and risk as compared
with other instruments of national
The report comes the same day Mr
Obama and Chinese president Xi
Jinping attend talks in California.
US officials said the question of
Chinese hackers would be on the
agenda after repeated cyber attacks
from China targeting US military
and commercial secrets.
Last year, the head of the US Cyber
Command said the United States
needs to develop offensive weapons
in cyberspace as part of its effort
to protect the nation from cyber
"If your defence is only to try to
block attacks, you can never be
successful," General Keith
Alexander, director of the National
Security Agency (NSA) and
commander of the US Cyber
Command, told a Washington
"At times, the government has to
look at what you have to do to stop
an attack - stop it before it
happens. Part of our defence has
to consider offensive measures."