Told you so — the US as untrustworthy international partner

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Shoeshine at 2:09 pm by George Smith

Excerpted from yesterday, on the bind the US government — by its actions and statements — has put itself in with regard to cyberwar:

[The] US is in a lousy position to make arguments, or even recommendations, on proper conduct in cyberspace. This is because it is an untrustworthy international partner, one which will not be held to standards of conduct it publicly demands from others. (The majority in American power find this of no consequence under the rationale that as the preeminent and transcendent world power, the United States can always act any way it wants and that hypocrisy or an establishment of untrustworthiness does not apply.)

Ours is a country that routinely uses feeble actors in cyberspace like Iran as bogeymen in public statements on the dangers of cyberwar without including in the narrative the fact that we provoked them …

From an article in the Reg, on the “NATO manual on cyberwar,” one that argues that acts of force in cyberspace are [likely] illegal (primary author “Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island):”

Schmitt said the legal experts who drew up the manual agreed that Stuxnet was an act of force but were divided on whether the malware constituted an armed attack. And even if it was an armed attack it might still be justified as self defense in the form of striking back at the aggressor in the face of imminent attack, as a paragraph on page 58 of the manual explains:

“In light of the damage they caused to Iranian centrifuges, some members of the international group of experts were of the view that the attack had reached the armed attack threshold (unless justifiable on the basis of anticipatory self defence) [our emphasis].”

In other words, Stuxnet was not illegal because it was by the United States (and/for Israel), the preeminent world military and economic power, against Iran — because they’re bad, small, don’t like us and have a nuclear program.

Such legalisms in any manual thus rendered meaningless because the precedent is to claim the US is the special nation among all, always able to determine itself to be striking from a position of self-defense.

Taken to one logical conclusion, it renders all US participation in the establishment of international codes of conduct as easily abrogated as changing underwear, using the order and procedure established as the result of 9/11.

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