The Pentagon’s massive worldwide computer networks were hit with a major malicious software attack in 2008 through a computer flash drive inserted into a computer. The electronic strike was a watershed event that triggered cybersecurity improvements and a temporary ban on the use of portable storage devices, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said Tuesday.
Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of the Strategic Command, told a House hearing that such penetrations are an example of the types of threats facing the military as it gears up for computer warfare and the creation of a new cyberwarfare command.
“We can anticipate that adversarial actors will make cyberspace a battle front in future warfare,” Gen. Chilton said. “Even today, intrusions and espionage into our networks, as well as cyber-incidents abroad, highlight the unprecedented and diverse challenges we face in the battle for information.”
Gen. Chilton described the penetration as a “serious intrusion” he called a “seminal event” for the military and Pentagon.
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Defense officials said at the time that the sophisticated electronic computer break-in likely was carried out by the Chinese government or military, although attributing it directly to Beijing was difficult.
Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry, a Strategic Command official, said later that the 2008 attack involved “particular variants of computer worms” that “infected computers worldwide and targeted Microsoft Windows operating systems.” He declined to provide further details, citing security considerations.
Gen. Chilton said that as a result of hacking, “our forces developed new network monitoring and evaluation systems and grappled with the security needs of sprawling networks where low cost and efficiency have often taken priority over security.”
Strategic Command is moving ahead with plans announced in October to set up a new U.S. Cyber Command near the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md.
In a first step, two units already are being consolidated. The Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, which conducts cyberdefense, is being put together with the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare, the offensive cyberwarfare component, he said.
“We’ve already started to unify those two mission areas,” Gen. Chilton said.
The new subcommand has been delayed by the Senate, which has yet to hold hearings on the nomination of its commander, current NSA Director Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander.
CONVENTIONAL VS. NUCLEAR STRIKE
James N. Miller, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told Congress this week that the Pentagon is working on conventionally armed long-range missiles and other non-nuclear strike weapons as part of its efforts to limit nuclear weapons.
Mr. Miller said the effort grew out of the recent four-year strategy review. Pentagon officials are “now studying the appropriate long-term mix of non-nuclear long-range strike capabilities, including penetrating and standoff bombers, cruise missiles, and conventionally armed ballistic missiles,” Mr. Miller told the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.
The use of conventionally tipped, long-range missiles was opposed in the past by some in Congress who feared their use would trigger a nuclear war if states such as Russia and China misinterpreted any launch of a non-nuclear ICBM as a nuclear attack and they fired their nuclear missiles in retaliation as part of what is called launch-on-warning.
Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, who appeared with Mr. Miller before the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee on Tuesday, said he does not support a one-for-one replacement of nuclear warheads with precision-guided conventional bombs or missiles.
Conventional-missile strikes can be a deterrent to an invasion of South Korea by North Korea, but “we have to be careful when we start talking about one-for-one substitutions of conventional weapons for nuclear weapons,” he said.
“When it comes to the deterrence mission, not the warfighting mission necessarily, … the nuclear weapon has a deterrent factor that far exceeds a conventional threat,” he said.
Rapid global strikes with non-nuclear missiles would be “an additional weapon in the quiver of the president” during a crisis when only nuclear missiles are a timely option, he said.
“But the connective tissue between that and the one-for-one exchange for a nuclear deterrent, I’m not quite there,” he said.
The effort is expected to be outlined in detail in the Nuclear Posture Review the Pentagon is expected to make public next month.
Mr. Miller said the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty being negotiated with Moscow is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. It is aimed at cutting nuclear weapons to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads and between 500 and 1,100 missiles and bombers.
Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment on the fatwa, or religious edict, issued several years ago by the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA) that prohibits Muslims from providing food to U.S. and allied troops working in Muslim countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The fatwa by Main Khalid al-Qudah is dated June 20, 2007, and was issued in response to the question of whether a Muslim who owns a shipping company is allowed under Islamic law to transport food from a storage facility to a harbor, “knowing that these supplies will be sent to soldiers working in Islamic countries under the auspices of the allied forces.”
“That would not be permissible, for that would be helping others in sin and transgression,” the fatwa stated.
According to terrorism analysts, the fatwa highlights the shortcomings of the Pentagon’s aggressive “outreach” program to American Muslim groups over the past several years. According to critics, the program sought to win over the groups, but often included Muslims organizations with ties to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian group that has provided the ideological underpinnings for al Qaeda.
Patrick Poole, a counterterrorism specialist, said the fatwa indicates the Pentagon’s efforts to mitigate the threat from American Muslims through public outreach is not working.
“For years, the Pentagon has invested heavily in various Muslim-outreach programs, only to find time and again that they were one-way, dead-end streets,” he said.
Mr. Poole said the outreach efforts are misguided because the Pentagon has been “reaching out to the wrong Muslim leaders.”
“The best example is the Pentagon’s reliance on Abdurahman Alamoudi to establish their Muslim chaplaincy program in the 1990s, and who at the time was al Qaeda’s top American fundraiser and the most prominent Islamic figure in the country,” he said.
Alamoudi, founder of the American Muslim Council, is currently serving a 23-year prison term on terrorism-related charges.
“In that case, the Pentagon ignored many calls of concern about Alamoudi’s outspoken extremism,” Mr. Poole said. “And now that we see with these anti-military fatwas issued by top American Islamic leaders that nearly two decades of outreach efforts to the Muslim community are utter failures, the Pentagon doesn’t want to address the fact that they are not working.”
Paul Sperry, a journalist who specializes in Islamist extremism, said the AMJA is known to be close to Muslim Brotherhood leaders who often pose as moderate American Muslim scholars.
“Many of them teach Islam at the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled American Open University,” he said. “That’s why their rulings are so strict in their compliance to medieval Shariah code, including advocating adherence to barbaric ‘hudood’ punishments for crimes against Islam.” Hudood is the Islamic practice of beheading apostates, cutting off the limbs of thieves or stoning women for infidelity.
A spokesman for the AMJA could not be reached for comment.
A second American Muslim, the Yemen-based al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki also has issued a fatwa declaring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be crimes against Muslims. He warned other American Muslims not to serve in the U.S. military or support U.S. military efforts. He also has issued a fatwa that said U.S. troops and bases should be attacked.