Leaked document shows Obama efforts to expand cyberwarfare preparation
June 7th, 2013
10:18 PM ET

Leaked document shows Obama efforts to expand cyberwarfare preparation

By Barbara Starr

President Barack Obama has directed senior national security leadership to prepare a list of targets for potential cyberattacks, according to a "Top Secret" document published Friday by the British newspaper The Guardian.

The classified document marks the third time in three days that highly sensitive government information has been leaked to The Guardian.

The latest document, called Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-20, is marked "TOP SECRET/NOFORN" which means it is not to be shared with foreign nationals. CNN could not independently verify the directive but it appears in the same format as other government directive documents. "Top Secret" material is highly sensitive but it is not the highest level of classification in the government.

The presidential directive orders the federal government to "identify potential targets" for "offensive" cyberoperations - essentially cyberattacks.

Under U.S. law, presidential approval is required for all cyberoperations. In the event an attack is ordered, the president would specifically approve that use of force and troops specializing in cyberoperation, a senior Pentagon official told CNN.

The document spells out what has been known in far less detail until now - that the United States is increasingly developing cyberwarfare capability.

The leaked directive follows other presidential orders dating back to 1990. It was the growing concern about cyber vulnerabilities and cyberattack that led the Pentagon several years ago to establish the U.S. Cyber Command, a military unit specifically devoted to both using the military to defend against cyberattacks on U.S. targets, and developing the capability to launch cyberattacks on targets. There is also extensive cooperation with industry because of the need to protect civilian infrastructure such as power grids, pipelines and transportation networks.

The cyber realm remains one of the most sensitive areas for the U.S. military.

"We have developed a full range of capabilities to operate in the cyber-domain," the senior Pentagon official said. "But we are not going to talk about it." He emphasized the "same rules of engagement" apply in cyberattacks as with other targets the U.S. military might strike.

But in cyberattacks, there also is a unique need to assess the possibility of civilian damage because an attack to disable a computer network could have widespread, perhaps unintended, consequences beyond an initial military cybertarget.

Details of the capabilities are closely held.

The leak, though revealing, will likely not raise the alarm of Americans compared to the previous disclosure in The Guardian of a secret court order to Verizon to turn over its complete phone records for calls within the United States and overseas.

Similarly, a top-secret document disclosed to The Guardian and the Washington Post on Thursday suggested the U.S. government was tapping directly into the servers of major U.S. Internet companies including Google and Facebook to intercept e-mails, videos, photos and other data flowing through the United States.

Both newspapers wrote the program was done with the cooperation of nine companies, most of whom adamantly denied any knowledge of the secretive program. The Obama administration, including the president, insisted the program was legal, limited solely to hunting down information related to seeking out terrorists overseas, and was not seeking data on Americans.

On Thursday, the director of national intelligence called the leaks "reprehensible" and said the situation "threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm" to efforts to defend the country.

The Washington Post described the source who provided the documents on the Internet surveillance program as "a career intelligence officer" who sought to "expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy."

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. In home personal training

    I'm glad to see that Obama is making efforts to expand cyberwarfare preparation. But it's not enough we need to go on the offense too. We need to go after the "physical sites" that are going after us. Weather it's a missile or a hacker from the US.

    April 8, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  2. Tahlia

    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this blog's content everyday along with a mug of coffee.

    January 9, 2014 at 7:07 am | Reply
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    November 27, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  4. mona

    Make your data secure from unauthorized access .cyber security

    July 1, 2013 at 3:28 am | Reply
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    Make your data secure from unauthorized access .umuts technology provide facility to protect your computer .cyber security

    July 1, 2013 at 3:26 am | Reply
  6. KM

    This article is a small amount of information, taken out of context. This is basically about what is plans & procedures. It's commonly used in businesses around the world. It's emergency planning. Amazing how the media can tell PARTIAL truths and everyone gets wound up and running in the wrong direction.

    This is what you do so that you can be prepared for an attack. First you PLAN for things that may happen. You identify those most likely to attack you and try to figure out ways to prevent it, or recover from it, or whatever other contingency may occur. Then you set up the procedures part.

    IMHO – Media personnel and networks who would convey this sort of thing, in this manner, are inciting 'terror' and should be treated accordingly. It's just shameful. Hey journalists and 'so called' new networks: If you ever get tired of stirring up drama, maybe you could try sharing some news.

    June 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  7. USMC1371

    ACLU files lawsuit against the Obama admin. Finally the Chicago thug is going to have too answer for the shaddy way he has ran his office. He his going to go down in history as the worest president ever.

    June 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
    • chrissy

      Good posting, USMC1371. Yes, Barack Obama has managed to do just about everything wrong since he became President. Gitmo is still open where political prisoners are routinely tortured, people are being slaughtered on a daily basis with those ungodly drones overseas and now this obscene spying on the average American! Enough is enough!

      June 11, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
      • Mark

        Maybe since the both of you are soooooo smart, maybe you can run our country. LOL. Idiots.

        June 12, 2013 at 9:57 am |
      • Rob

        What country / era are you living in? The government has been spying on Americans for years way past the Obama administration. It's the only way to find domestic / foreign terrorrist.
        As for the breaking news of cyberwarfare...it's not breaking news. We need to spy on them as they spy on us!

        June 12, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • MOCaseA

      Really? You think this is all the Presidents fault? Your posts give lie to the very idea that you ever served in the USMC. I would recommend looking at how things in the government are actually run before you try to make any more posts about whose "fault" anything is. And stop relying on sappy movies and prime time television as your source of information on how things work...

      June 13, 2013 at 3:57 am | Reply
  8. BuddyGC

    Nothing wrong with that....
    Welcome to the digital age..

    But was he intending to attack us citizens by collecting their information

    June 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  9. Cyllarus

    I understand that people like to know stuff, but this leaking stuff has got to stop. I mean countries have to have secrets if we're going to get ahead of rivals. If the Chinese had people who would leak top secret info to the media, the world would know for sure that China has been hacking the U.S. and the world would condemn them and possibly punish them in some way. But they apparently don't have those people/the media is too controlled for this to happen and because of that, they're getting away with it. If we wanna get ahead of rival countries, our people have to stop telling them our every move before it happens.

    June 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Reply
    • F-111

      How very true; cyber warfare is very real. People who leaked this should be out of a job right this instant.

      June 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Reply
    • BuddyGC

      Is this really a leak or just common sense.
      Is there anyone in the world who didn't suspect other countries from building cyber weapons??

      Isn't Obama meeting with the Chinese president this week talking about "CYBER ATTACkS'

      This is non news

      June 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      The leaks are coming from those who are disgruntled with this administration. He's not a great POTUS but not the worst either.
      Government secrets should stay within the government. Anyone who leaks should be tried in a federal court for treason.

      June 12, 2013 at 11:56 am | Reply
  10. .

    Is it possible to post

    June 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  11. HJC

    and Bradely Manning is still a weasel.

    June 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • chrissy

      Really, HJC? I somehow don't think so! In fact, he did this country a great service and the way he's being treated is scandalous to say the least!

      June 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Reply
      • USMC1371

        He needs to be shot for being a traitor.

        June 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
      • rohug

        You sir are an idiot he cost us military lives with his leaks. Go back to sleep.

        June 11, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  12. George Patton-2

    if the " the doc ument was disclosed to The Guardian and the Washington Post " it is not a top-secret doc ument. I am glad our country is one step ahead of the game. I hope they start a new secrete department whose job is to monitor terrorist activities from all muslim countries.

    June 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    • Killer O'Bama

      Thank you, Phunnie boy. Well said.

      June 8, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Reply
    • brad

      The only problem with your idea of them creating ANOTHER secret dept to monitor activities in muslum countries is this......the program that was just "leaked" to the the Guardian was just that....it was created under Buch to monitor calls and information made to and received from foreign countries.....and if I remember right the libs raised holy heck over the wire tapping and what not and swore to stop it......no comes the problem....O-blame_ya has taken that program....hidden it and quadrupled it to include ALL calls and internet activities of EVERY man, woman and child IN the U.S...........whose to say if this program is shut down and another created that the same thing wont happen again if not worse....it seems like every program Obama and the libs screamed about and swore to close down has just be made bigger and worse than ever.......

      June 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  13. RQ

    Not surprising.

    June 8, 2013 at 10:58 am | Reply
  14. chrissy

    Only a stupid crazy fool would call Obama a liberal after this piece of news. This goes to show just how far to the right Obama has become. He has planning to kill Muslims from the get go just as Hitler did to the Jews! We condemn "terrorism", but what does one call the action of hurling 500 lb. bombs by those horrific drones on defenseless people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen? Will someone kindly explain that one to me?

    June 8, 2013 at 6:54 am | Reply
    • USMC1371

      Self-defence against animals that murder innocent people in the name of their false religion.

      June 8, 2013 at 7:49 am | Reply
      • chrissy

        Are you trying to imply that Barack Obama is not killing anyone, USMC1371? Of course he is with those ungodly drones and Apache helicopters and God only knows with what else!

        June 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Nclaw441

      Mr. Obama is liberal. The techniques used to advance one's goals are used by all sides. The FISA Courts, which issue the warrants in these secret cases, was established by President Carter in the late 1970s. But for him the Patriot Act would have no teeth.

      June 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  15. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    June 8, 2013 at 4:18 am | Reply
    • Islam Extremists are the root of terror

      There are 22 Arab countries (with 800 times the land mass of Israel), not counting the Palestinian territories. There is only one Jewish state. Arabs started all five wars against Israel, and lost every one of them.

      June 8, 2013 at 5:29 am | Reply
    • Mark

      I think you should go live in the mideast.

      June 12, 2013 at 10:03 am | Reply
  16. mw

    Why do they keep printing this garbage.

    June 8, 2013 at 1:52 am | Reply
    • BiggerThomas

      Why did you read it then comment on it if you see it as garbage. What a loser

      June 8, 2013 at 8:09 am | Reply
      • johnharry


        June 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

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