Will heads roll for the Stuxnet leak?
Within days of SEAL Team Six’s killing of Osama on that midnight mission in Pakistan, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, reading all about the raid in the press, went to the White House to tell President Obama’s national security adviser pungently to “shut the (bleep) up.”
Leaked secrets of that raid may have led to the imprisonment for 33 years of a Pakistani doctor who helped us locate bin Laden.
Yet, according to Judicial Watch, the White House has been providing Hollywood with details of the raid for a movie that will, we may be sure, heroize our commander in chief. More troubling are two recent stories in The New York Times.
One, by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, describes how, at meetings in the Situation Room, Obama examines “baseball cards” of al-Qaida targets in Pakistan and Yemen and decides on the “kill list” for drone strikes.
Most explosive was the June 1 story by David Sanger, who wrote of the origins and operation of a secret U.S-Israeli cyberwar strike on Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. The Stuxnet virus we introduced into Natanz put 1,000 centrifuges out of action.
These security leaks raise moral, strategic and legal issues.
Does Obama alone decide in the War on Terror who dies, where and when, whom it is permissible to terminate as collateral damage, who gets a reprieve? What are the criteria that this, our Caesar, has settled upon for who gets whacked? Do we have a right to know?
And there is blowback to actions like these. Asked why he would target civilians, the Times Square bomber replied that U.S. drones do not spare civilians in Pakistan.
Is it wise to have it leaked that President Obama is routinely ordering assassinations? Have we forgotten our history?
After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, we discovered that the CIA had been plotting to kill Fidel Castro, and Lee Harvey Oswald had visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. The Kennedys were “running a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean,” Lyndon Johnson allegedly said.
Men targeted for assassination in their countries may feel justified in reciprocating and assassinating Americans in our country.
As for the malware, or Stuxnet virus, introduced into Natanz, was it wise to use this powerful and secret weapon against a plant that is under international inspection and enriches uranium only to 5 percent?
We may have disrupted Natanz for months, but we also revealed to Iran and the world our cyberwar capabilities. And we became the first nation to use cyberwar weapons on a country with which we are not at war.
If we have a right to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities like Natanz and Bushehr that are under U.N. supervision, does Iran have a right to attack our nuclear plants, like Three Mile Island, with cyberwar viruses they create?
We have now alerted technologically advanced nations like Russia and China to our capabilities and impelled them to get cracking on their own cyberwar weapons, both offensive and defensive.
After President Truman informed him at Potsdam of our atom bomb, Joseph Stalin went home and ordered Soviet scientists to replicate the U.S. success. By 1949, far sooner than expected, Stalin had the bomb.
Sanger describes how this “highly classified program,” code-named “Olympic Games,” was begun in the Bush years, how the worm was inserted in Natanz, and how it escaped from the centrifuges to outside computers and the world.
He quotes the president’s dismayed reaction: “Should we shut this thing down?” Sanger implies that he spoke with “participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games.”
Obama seems outraged by such a suggestion: “The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive.”
Fair enough. But presidential meetings are held in the Situation Room because they involve the most sensitive security secrets, and Olympic Games was, as Sanger relates, “a highly classified” program.
Whom did Sanger get all this from? Who leaked and why?
For this is far more serious than the leak that Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA, which triggered a special prosecutor and got Dick Cheney’s top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, indicted and convicted.
Pvt. Bradley Manning faces a life sentence for divulging security secrets to Wikileaks. What did he do that the leakers of the Stuxnet secrets did not do?
John McCain alleges that the leaking of security secrets — on how SEAL Team Six got Osama, on the Stuxnet virus that ravaged the Natanz plant, on the president ordering up drone strikes on a “kill list” of al-Qaida operatives — is politically motivated.
Purpose: Paint the president as a ruthless and relentless warrior against America’s enemies.
Whatever the purpose, the leaks appear to be breaches of national security and violations of federal law, and two U.S. attorneys are investigating.
It is not improbable that officials on Obama’s national security team, if not White House aides, will soon be addressing a federal grand jury.