The United States is fighting a cyberwar today, and we are losing….
The United States must also translate our intent into capabilities. We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options — and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable.
— Michael McConnell, Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton, Washington Post op-ed, February 25 2010
Let’s do a little translation:
“monitor” = spy
“cyberspace” = the internet
“locate the source of attacks” = track people
“make attribution… more manageable” = end anonymity
“geolocation” = find out where you are
“intelligence analysis” = data mining
Mike McConnell — the former Director of the National Security Agency, former Director of National Intelligence and the current Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton — is proposing to re-engineer the internet so that you can’t be anonymous on it, so that you can’t cloak your location, so that you can be tracked, and so that information about your behavior on the internet can gathered for analysis.
How do you sell this to the American people? Declare “cyberwar!”
Booz Allen, which not coincidentally has built a multi-billion-dollar business out of cybersecurity contracts with the federal government, has arranged a package complete with testimony to all the right congressional committees.
But is this package being stamped “Return to Sender”?
As he took office in January 2009, President Barack Obama seemed prepared to embrace the Mike McConnell-Booz Allen agenda with the announced appointment of McConnell to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB). But in the months that ensued, McConnell’s appointment didn’t come to pass. Just before Halloween of 2009, President Obama announced the co-chairs of the PIAB, neither of whom is Mike McConnell. Just after the Winter Solstice of 2009, when President Obama announced the appointment of seven new members for the PIAB, McConnell’s name did not appear on the list. Not one of the nine members of the PIAB works for McConnell’s employer, the defense cyberwar contractor Booz Allen.
What about this vaunted “cyberwar” that Mike McConnell insists the United States is fighting and losing?
The White House website makes no mention of any “cyberwar.” When White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt was asked last week about McConnell’s claims of a “cyberwar,” Schmidt replied:
There is no cyberwar. I think that is a terrible metaphor and I think that is a terrible concept.
The Obama Administration has engaged in a number of activities — including but not limited to the reauthorization of the Patriot Act to the use of NSA warrantless surveillance against American citizens, the deployment of the FBI to spy of peaceful political and church groups, and the expanded use of predictive pre-crime data mining programs — that expand the role of the U.S. government in spying on people when there’s no probable cause to suspect a crime. In the one area of “cyberwar,” however, the White House appears to be distancing itself from the overeager intelligence industry establishment. This is a distinction worth following.