Obama Expands War Powers; Can Unleash Cyberwar Any Time

• Few realize potential threat of Presidential Policy Directive 20
• Obama wants U.S., Israel to go it alone; rebuffs Russia

By Richard Walker

The very moment United States President Barack Obama authorized the “dropping” of an electronic bomb on Iran’s nuclear industry he crossed a line into a new kind of warfare that could have global consequences today and far into the future. The weapon used against Iran was built with the cooperation of Israel and was named Stuxnet. It was a “worm” that infected the computers running Iran’s nuclear industry. German systems control expert, Ralph Langer, who told the world about Stuxnet, remarked Stuxnet represented a dangerous capability and that its code could be used by hackers and others. In other words, Obama had unleashed a weapon that could be re-engineered by anyone to attack computer networks controlling American infrastructure.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Stuxnet attack was it demonstrated how Obama had given to himself new powers to launch a cyberwar against any country without Congressional approval. Unlike conventional war in which soldiers are sent to the front and bombs are dropped from the skies, cyberweapons silently and stealthily attack information systems, as well as financial and power centers. We do not know how many times Obama has used his new Cyber Command unit to attack nations other than Iran.


Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 20, known as PPD 20, which he signed in October 2012, was a stark example of a power grab to accord to him special powers to launch a cyber war at a moment of his choosing. The Guardian newspaper, which first revealed the existence of the directive, claimed it sought a larger target list for cyber attacks and contemplated the use of cyber weapons within the U.S. if the president gave the green light and only in an emergency. But what kind of emergency remains unclear, as does the list of nations he might target in the future.

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was unsuccessful in a legal bid to have the directive made public. EPIC feels the American people have a right to know what this president is doing with the country’s cyberpowers and how those powers could possibly be used against ordinary citizens, or how far he may go in an emergency to limit public access to the Internet.

The evidence Obama was bent on developing a cyber war capability he could personally control was there for all to see in the 2012 Fiscal Year National Defense Authorization Act. Obama had threatened to veto the bill until he realized part of it was something he craved, namely the power to use cyber weapons in an offensive capacity. The bill passed without a presidential veto and, as is the case with most bills, few people took time to read its 656 pages. Had they done so, they would have found a Section 954 entitled “Military Activities in Cyberspace.” It declared “Congress affirms that the Department of Defense has the capability, and upon direction by the president, may conduct offensive operations in cyberspace to defend our nation, allies and interests.”

An East European cyber war specialist, speaking on condition of anonymity to AMERICAN FREE PRESS, said he was unhappy with Obama’s refusal to work more closely with Russia on cyber threats. He pointed to the fact Obama abandoned a joint approach by U.S.–Russian experts, who issued a cyber-conflict report in 2011 under the auspices of the East-West Institute. It was the first joint effort of its kind designed to define the “rules of the road” for cyber conflict.

“Obama is more of as hawk in this field than people imagine. His cyber war policy has the potential for global consequences in which cyber wars will be launched by many nations and it will be impossible to identify the culprits. Russia wanted a cyber-partnership with America, but Obama wanted to go it alone with the exception of working with the Israelis on projects of mutual interest like Iran and now Syria. That should concern his allies as much as the American people,” he warned.

Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.