With his third major scoop in as many days, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald reports that the president has aggressively solicited targets for cyber-attack from his intelligence chiefs in an effort to advance American interests worldwide:
Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.
The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) “can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging”. …
The directive’s publication comes as the president plans to confront his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a summit in California on Friday over alleged Chinese attacks on western targets.
Even before the publication of the directive, Beijing had hit back against US criticism, with a senior official claiming to have “mountains of data” on American cyber-attacks he claimed were every bit as serious as those China was accused of having carried out against the US.
As noted, the timing could hardly be worse. The objective of Obama’s meeting with President Xi was to dispense with many diplomatic formalities, such as large cadres of aides, in an effort to build personal chemistry between the two most powerful men in the world. The White House’s desire to challenge China’s cyber warfare was reinforced by the recent theft of blueprints for major weapons systems, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which boasts sophisticated stealth technology and avionics. It will now face questions over its own hacking ambitions, as well as a burgeoning scandal of civil liberties abuses by the NSA, not to mention the journalist surveillance and IRS controversies.
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