- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The nation’s top military officer in charge of cyber warfare said on Tuesday that the U.S. is powerless to shut down the vast information network operated on the Internet by the Islamic State terror army.

Like no other terrorist group, the Islamic State has embraced cyber space, and its associated messaging apps and platforms, to spread propaganda, recruit foreign killers and plan massacres, such as the March 22 attacks in Brussels.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Joe Manchin asked Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, chief of U.S. Cyber Command, “why can’t be shut down the part of the Internet. Why can’t we interrupt ISIS’s ability to go on social media and attract? Why aren’t we able to infiltrate that more?”

“The idea you are going to shut down the Internet, given its construction and complexity, is just not [doable],” answered Adm. Rogers, who also directs the National Security Agency, which works to intercept ISIL’s communications.

“I’ve had people ask me can’t you just stop it in that area of the world where all the problems are coming from?” Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, asked, referring to ISIL’s home turf of Iraq and Syria.

“It’s just not that simple,” Adm. Rogers said. “I wish I could say there is a part of the Internet that is only used by a specific set of users.”

Adm. Rogers‘ public answer does not mean his agencies are not attacking ISIL in cyber space.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in February that the U.S. is targeting various ISIL networks to disrupt activities. He said one tactic is to overload a network to force a crash, in what is Cyber Command’s first publicly acknowledged war.

“We’re trying to both physically and virtually isolate ISIL, limit their ability to conduct command and control, limit their ability to communicate with each other, limit their ability to conduct operations locally and tactically,” said Mr. Carter.

The U.S., in an operation never publicly disclosed, developed malware that caused damage to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

ISIL uses not only the seeable public Internet, but also encrypted apps readily downloadable on the commercial market to link up with killers and potential recruits.

Adm. Rogers said the Internet is clearly a boon to ISIL.

“They’ve harnessed the power of the information arena to promulgate their ideology on a global basis to recruit on a global basis, to generate revenue, and to move money as well as to coordinate some level of activity on a larger dispersed basis,” he testified.

“The challenge I look for, what concerns me when I look at the future, what happens if a non-state actor, ISIL being one example, starts to use cyber as a weapons system? That would really be a troubling development,” the admiral said.

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