Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dismantling of Saudi-CIA Web site illustrates need for clearer cyberwar policies

From the Washington Post,
By early 2008, top U.S. military officials had become convinced that extremists planning attacks on American forces in Iraq were making use of a Web site set up by the Saudi government and the CIA to uncover terrorist plots in the kingdom.

"We knew we were going to be forced to shut this thing down," recalled one former civilian official, describing tense internal discussions in which military commanders argued that the site was putting Americans at risk. "CIA resented that," the former official said.

Elite U.S. military computer specialists, over the objections of the CIA, mounted a cyberattack that dismantled the online forum. Although some Saudi officials had been informed in advance about the Pentagon's plan, several key princes were "absolutely furious" at the loss of an intelligence-gathering tool, according to another former U.S. official.
This case study highlights one of the dilemmas we discussed in last weeks class. Should we leave potentially dangerous websites online in order to exploit them for actionable intelligence, or should we shut them down and deny terrorists an online safe haven?

Read the whole article here ...

1 comment:

Samuel said...

I think its interesting that the CIA actually argued that the site should be kept operational when US troops in Iraq were dying as a result of the extremists ability to coordinate attacks on the site. The CIA seems to only have long term security interests at heart even though American soldiers are dying. Although I was somewhat surprised in the CIA's stance it brings up an intriguing question: whether we should leave extremists sites online in order to exploit them to gain information. I think that in situations where US lives have been lost as a result of the activity on the site, the website should be shut down. However in situations where the website is a great asset in attaining intelligence and has curtailed significant terrorist attacks, I think the site should be left online. In a situation where a website has produced a great deal of intelligence but there has been loss of American life; I believe that if the site is a forum for large scale terrorist plots it is necessary to keep the site online for the greater good. I believe in a situation like this the ends do justify the means