Rogues, Leaks and Cyberwarriors

December 6, 2010

Rogues, Leaks and Cyberwarriors

Threats to America's national security loom large in newspapers and the blogosphere, thanks once again to Wikileaks and those bothersome rogue states, Iran, Syria and North Korea. U.S. News & World Report editor Mortimer Zuckerman thinks he's found the way to win the impending cyberwar (important because the "mischievous Wikileaks . . . dramatizes how vulnerable we still are" on that front). He says in the Wall Street Journal that the internet was never intended to be a World Wide Web of billions of users, but merely an exchange for "thousands of researchers." Then there's the examples of havoc already wrought—Stuxnet messing with Iran's nuclear-centrifuge facilities; suspected-Russian involvement in the shutdown of hundreds of Georgian websites during the 2008 skirmish; and jammed fiber optic cables in South Korea. But China's the one we should really fear, Zuckerman (and former–"White House counterterrorism czar" Richard Clarke—whose new book is being plugged as well) writes. These threats have Zuckerman calling for a "souped-up Manhattan Project" (it's not like the top-secret program that led to the birth of the atomic bomb included Oppenheimer and Einstein or anything). Then, without giving many details, Zuckerman returns to the gravity of the cyberwar threat: equivalent to a weapon of mass destruction—before putting forward Mr. Clarke's own idea of creating a Cyber Defense Administration.

Just underneath Zuckerman's op-ed, Graham Allison and Olli Heinonen, the Harvard scholar and former-IAEA official, respectively, want the United States to break out of the "dangerous conspiracy of silence on Syria's nuclear program." In the wake of Israel's 2007 attack that destroyed Damascus's facility at Al-Kibar, the Syrians have done nothing but "stonewall" the ever-watchful International Atomic Energy Agency's investigators. The next step, Allison and his coauthor contend, is to have Washington demand that the IAEA proceed with inspections in Syria; otherwise, it could become "the next North Korea."

Speaking of which, the Washington Post reports that the relationship between Washington and Beijing is deteriorating further over the PRC's lack of action regarding North Korea's recent behavior (President Obama called President Hu Jintao to pressure him into leaning on the regime in Pyongyang, but apparently it didn't take). And Stanford expert Daniel Sneider says the South Koreans are "really ticked off," too. Meanwhile, the New York Times notes that Seoul has plunged ahead with planned week-long artillery exercises even in the face of warnings from Pyongyang that it could "ignite a war."

And lest that other arm of the so-called Axis of Evil feel left out (Syria was always an honorary member), Iran's announced "major advance" in its pursuit of nuclear capabilities is getting plenty of coverage, too. The Iranians have reportedly been able to process uranium ore from a domestic source, which could allow them to exploit a loophole in UN sanctions that currently ban them from importing the raw material. The announcement comes, true to form, as they sit down with diplomats from the P5+1 (the UN Security Council members and Germany), who are, also true to form, "seeking reassurances that Tehran's ambitions are peaceful."