A secret cyber mission commenced after President Obama gave the “execute order” last June, the Federation of American Scientists reported Thursday.
The military operation was classified until it was disclosed by the Air Force last week, the nonprofit organization reported.
While the title of the cybersecurity mission is still under wraps, FAS was able to determine that the order must have come from the president, as an “execute order” is officially defined by the Department of the Defense as “an order issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, to implement a decision by the President to initiate military operations.”
The mission’s existence, now acknowledged in publicly available documents, reads: “Classified processes governing C2 [command and control] of AF [Air Force] offensive and defensive cyberspace operations conducted by AF Cyber Mission Forces are addressed in a classified CJCS [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] Execute Order (title classified) issued on 21 Jun 13.”
The Federation of American Scientist believes that the nature of the mission is offensive in nature, in part because Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the president’s nominee to head the National Security Agency, is on record as saying that “geographic combatant commanders already have authority to direct and execute certain Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO) within their own networks.”
The news of the execute order comes only weeks after it was revealed that a 2013 Iranian cyberattack on Navy’s largest unclassified computer network took four months to secure. Vice Adm. Rogers headed the cleanup effort, called Operation Rolling Tide. Roughly 800,000 users at 2,500 locations were affected by the Iranian attack.