- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The U.S. waged a secret “cyber operation” against Iran after finding the country was responsible for attacking Saudi Arabian oil facilities last month, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Citing two U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity, Reuters said the operation was conducted late last month and targeted Tehran’s ability to spread “propaganda.”

The report said the operation occurred after Saudi oil plants were attacked by drones on Sept. 14. The U.S. and several allies have blamed the attack on Iran, which has denied involvement.

A top Iranian official disputed the cyber operation was successful, and the Pentagon declined to comment, Reuters reported.

“They must have dreamt it,” said Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, the Fars news agency reported.



“As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence or planning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith told Reuters.

The U.S. has been mostly mum with respect to the government’s offensive operations in cyberspace. The Pentagon has recently cited a classified directive issued in 2018 by President Trump — the National Security Presidential Memorandum 13, or NSPM 13 — with allowing the U.S. military to take a more offensive stance in attacking targets abroad, however.

“By defending forward, we are able to see and understand malicious cyber behavior, allowing us to publicly expose that activity and its culprits. It’s also posturing us to take action against these threats, at their source, before they reach the homeland,” Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said last month about the memorandum.

The Washington Post previously reported that the Pentagon relied on NSPM 13 during the 2018 midterm elections to hinder the operations of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential race in part by spreading propaganda on social media.

More recently, a bipartisan report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee this month stated that foreign adversaries including Iran, among others, have adopted the disinformation tactics deployed by Russia and are likely to use them against Americans during the 2020 election.

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