DoD to Carry Out Clandestine Operations in Cyberspace

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

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While the Department of Defense is leading the charge to enhance cyber security capabilities nationally, currently the DoD is only authorized to defend military systems.

The brunt of the burden for defending other government systems and the public sector rests with the Department of Homeland Security.

The pentagon is currently working with Congress and the White House to examine how to legally adjust their operational latitude with regards to cyber defense without upsetting civil libertarians and the balance of power between the military and civilian authorities.

As a first step in broadening the DoD's rules of engagement, language in the chairman's mark of the 2012 Defense Authorization bill authorizes the DoD to carry out what is described as clandestine operations against targets that are located outside the U.S.

The bill also clarifies that the Pentagon has latitude to defend DoD administered systems against any manner of attack, including those that are cyber-based.

Section 962 of the bill states that the Secretary of Defense has "the authority to conduct clandestine military activities in cyberspace in support of military operations" where Congress has already authorized the use of force in defense of critical assets.

"Because of the evolving nature of cyber warfare, there is a lack of historical precedent for what constitutes traditional military activities in cyberspace. In particular, this section (962) would clarify that the Secretary of Defense has the authority to conduct clandestine cyberspace activities in support of military operations pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force... outside of the United States or to defend against a cyber attack on an asset of the Department of Defense," noted chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, (R-Calif.)

The bill makes note of the fact that terrorists are increasingly using cyberspace and the Internet to conduct command and control operations from "distributed sanctuaries throughout the world. As a result, military activities may not be confined to a physical battlefield, and the use of military cyber activities has become a critical part of the effort to protect U.S. and coalition forces and combat terrorism globally."

Also included in the bill is designated funding for dozens of initiatives labeled "cyber", with the lion's share going to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is slated to receive an additional twenty-four million in funding.

Source:  http://federalnewsradio.com/?nid=35&sid=2376861

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