The White House Wants Credit for Cyberwar Successes While Blaming Israel for Failures
Leaking Cyberwar Secrets
The White House wants credit for successes but blames Israel for failures, a New York Times exposé shows
By Lee Smith|June 6, 2012 7:00 AM
It was quite a week for cyberwarfare. First came the revelation that Iran was suffering from a virus called Flame—apparently the most powerful spyware ever created, turning computers into virtual double-agents—which has already infected at least 1,000 computers, nearly all of them in Iran, the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Syria, and Lebanon.
Two days later, the New York Times published an explosive story by David Sanger detailing the collaboration between Israel and the United States in its cyberwarfare campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The program started under the Bush Administration, but according to Sanger “Obama decided to accelerate the attacks,” code-named Olympic Games, including the Stuxnet worm that set back the Iranian nuclear program by as much as two years.
The story, adapted from Sanger’s forthcoming book, is richly reported and heavily sourced to “current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program.” The story reveals that both the Bush and Obama Administrations have used cyberwarfare to wage campaigns—political and strategic—on various fronts. Stuxnet, for example, was not intended simply to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. It was also meant to convince the Israelis that Washington recognizes the urgency of the problem and thus Israel need not attack Iran. The Times article is evidence of the Obama White House’s efforts in yet another campaign: the 2012 elections.
Given that this was the second such cyberwarfare story that the Obama Administration has fed the New York Times—the first appeared in January 2011—it is obvious that this White House, like so many others before it, is using journalists to shape its image. While a number of analysts have criticized the administration for jeopardizing U.S. national security by leaking sensitive material to the press, the reality is that the story is not really about the details of this ongoing intelligence operation. It’s a political narrative, intended to shape public opinion about the competence and muscularity of this White House.