Stuxnet: Classified Disclosures for Political Gain

Monday, June 04, 2012

Joel Harding

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The recent disclosure that Stuxnet was a US program was shocking.  The disclosure that SEAL Team Six killed Usama bin Laden was shocking.

Shocking, not because of the boldness of these military operations.  It was shocking because all these disclosures revealed classified information.

According to the New York Times article by David E. Sanger here, President George W. Bush met personally with incoming President Barack Obama in the Oval Office during the transition period and urged President Obama to continue Operation Olympic Games, or Stuxnet as the world has come to know it.

This was a Special Access Program, where access to the information is restricted to a by-name approval process, at the senior-most levels.

The unit that killed Usama bin Laden, SEAL Team Six, was a previously classified unit, part of a code named program.  Disclosure of this unit gave President Obama an incredible amount of political clout.  President Obama’s approval ratings, as a result, rose to an unprecedented level.

These are only two examples of declassification for what appears to be purely political gain.

Operations Security or OPSEC is strictly enforced in the military, this is one of the basic tenets of Information Operations.  We have had problems with Senators and Congressmen in the past disclosing classified information when doing so suited their purpose. 

Now the President has become the “Discloser in Chief” for apparently pure political gain.  Is there no accountability?

According to an informed source, and I quote:

  1. Senger is a favorite “Leak Receiver” for the liberal lefty progressives.
  2. A cyber attack demonstrates the administration’s determination to neuter the Iranian nuclear program
  3. This is a demonstration of “Defense” by non-kinetic means
  4. The story clearly states that it “started under Bush” which gives them political cover from criticism
  5. A page and a half is not a trivial story for the old gray lady

"This is a long planned, well sourced highly edited piece that leaves little to the imagination as to Obama’s robust effort to neuter Iran’s nuclear program. The significant detail, diagrams and programs descriptions show a well researched tightly written piece."

Cross-posted from To Inform is to Influence

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Politics Disclosure Government Military Cyberwar Stuxnet Obama National Security OpSec
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Cody Renden An interesting perspective. I'm not really sure how this has anything to do with InfosecIsland's objective.

I would contend that people demanded "transparency" from our national government. Looks like they're getting it...

It also appears that these disclosures only hurt one group of people : Republicans who claim the president is a Liberal weak on foreign policy (pretty obviously not true...).

It definitely is not good OpSec to reveal these things, but they would be declassified eventually. Also, your claim that Obama himself clearly authorized this leak is stretching. Do you have any sources on "Stenger" being a mouthpiece for the administration?
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Jeffrey Carr I don't see any political gain in leaking Stuxnet, nor do I buy that it was an official leak. I also agree with the above comment that this article is more of a political commentary than an information security piece and I'm wondering if InfoSecIsland has become a political platform while I wasn't looking?
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Joel Harding Apologies, Jeff. Please note I do not point out any political parties, do not espouse any party one way or the other. Presidents come and presidents go, but leaks of classified information last forever. Both parties have been complicit in leaking classified information for political gain for as long as I can remember, but in this case I happen to have ringside seats and have a platform on which to comment. It's shameful and dishonors those who have spent a career protecting this information.
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Joel Harding As for the undisclosed source quote, I should probably have edited out the more egregious political blathering. Truly the source's position was far to the right and I erred in including that part of his statement. Perhaps it adds to the context, perhaps not. Now that it's published, it is what it is.
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Jeffrey Carr Leaking IS shameful. But what I object to is the claim by Republicans (and only Republicans say this) that Obama somehow authorized the leaks to David Sangar. That's the political part of this which I'm objecting to here.
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Joel Harding I can't prove or disprove your claim, Jeff, but that is how leaks usually happen at that level of government. The most likely suspect, and a few of us went through the checklist on Saturday, is the consummate insider, currently in a position of authority and clearly in a position to know details you and I cannot even imagine, to whom a silent nod can launch powerful actions.

I have a way to track down that person, I'm only hoping I can assist in that effort. I'm taking actions in that regard as I type this.
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Jeffrey Carr Joel, if you can't prove it perhaps it would have been better not to write the article as you did? The words "Political Gain" are in your title! You wrote it as if it was a fact, then you acknowledged in the comments section that your source was unreliable. That's why I took the time to object to this article being on InfoSecIsland. IMO, it crosses over into a political opinion piece.
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Joel Harding This is exactly what is causing most of the problems in the infosec community, there is no acceptance of grey. Everything must be black and white.

Washington DC is a world of grey, there is no real black and white.

Sorry, my friend, at this level it is all about politics, I just don't swing one way or the other.
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