By Julian E. Barnes
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 8, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Igniting a provocative new debate, senior military
officials are pushing the Pentagon to go on the offensive in cyberspace
by developing the ability to attack other nations' computer systems,
rather than concentrating on defending America's electronic security.
Under the most sweeping proposals, military experts would acquire the
know-how to commandeer the unmanned aerial drones of adversaries,
disable enemy warplanes in mid-flight and cut off electricity at precise
moments to strategic locations, such as military installations, while
sparing humanitarian facilities, such as hospitals.
An expansion of offensive capabilities in cyberspace would represent an
important change for the military. For years, U.S. officials have been
reluctant to militarize what is widely seen as a medium for commerce and
communication -- much like space.
But a new National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations,
declassified earlier this year, fueled the Pentagon debate and gave the
military a green light to push for expanded capabilities.
The monthslong debate took on added urgency after the electronic attacks
that coincided with the Russian military's early August push into
Georgia and reflects a newfound uncertainty over the state of global
Military officials have not concluded whether the electronic network
attacks in Georgia were coordinated by Moscow or were the work of
freelance hackers or paramilitary groups. Still, the use of cyberspace
by Russia and other countries is drawing intense scrutiny by the
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