WikiLeaks: An Act Of Cyberwar?
Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, says he is "not aware" that the Defense Department is behind any attempts to attack the WikiLeaks site, whose founder, Julian Assange, is in a British jail on a Swedish warrant accusing him of rape.
The Pentagon is spending $150 million this fiscal year on a new command to lead cyberwar efforts, which are aimed principally at defending military computer networks or attacking those of the enemy.
"The United States has powerful offensive capabilities in cyberspace," says Herbert Lin, an analyst at the National Academies,which advises the government on science and technology issues. "The question is how they should be using them."
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said WikiLeaks' publishing of stolen documents endangers lives and gives enemies valuable information. Assange's lawyers say a huge file of unreleased secret material will be made public if the United States attempts to prosecute him.
Assange's actions warrant a cyberattack, some say.
Christian Whiton, a former State Department official under the Bush administration, says WikiLeaks is a foreign organization trying to impede U.S. policy.
"Assaulting the company electronically is something worth trying," Whiton says. "It buys you time to go after the organization in other ways."
Experts say the government is struggling with developing rules that will govern such warfare, particularly when fighting unconventional enemies. Launching a cyberattack could raise sovereignty issues if, for example, servers were located in a friendly country.
"Every time one question is answered, more questions pop up," says Army Lt. Col. Robert Fanelli, a computer sciences assistant professor at West Point.
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