US planning for cyber attacks on Syria

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The United States is developing a battle plan against Syria that featured a sophisticated cyber attack on the Syrian military and President Bashar al-Assad’s command structure, a report reveals.

The National Security Council met Thursday to explore what one US official called “old and new options,” The New York Times reports, referring to a US plan in 2011, when the Pentagon and the National Security Agency first examined the use of cyber arms against Syria.

According to the report, Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to discuss “the details of our interagency deliberations” about Syria.

“But we have been clear that there are a range of tools we have at our disposal to protect our national security, including cyber,” she said, as cited by the Time.

She noted that in 2012 President Barack Obama “signed a classified presidential directive relating to cyber operations that establishes principles and processes so that cyber tools are integrated with the full array of national security tools.”

She said the directive “enables us to be flexible, while also exercising restraint in dealing with the threats we face. It continues to be our policy that we shall undertake the least action necessary to mitigate threats.”

According to the newspaper, the Syrian missile production facilities could be one of the targets of the possible US attacks.

In 2011, the Obama administration turned down the controversial plan after a set of briefings on the issue, the report said. Some US officials were concerned about a new and untested tactic with the potential to transform the nature of warfare. They also feared that such attacks on Syria’s air power, its electric grid or its leadership would prompt Syrian retaliation in the United States.

Obama has never spoken about the issue in public because he has put the use of cyber arms largely into the hands of the National Security Agency, whose operation are all secret, according to the report.

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