The Obama Administration reportedly debated kicking off its latest war-effort in Libya with a cyber-offensive targeting the Qaddafi regime’s air-defense infrastructure, according to a report from the New York Times.
The details of the Obama Administration’s plan remain classified, but the Times reports that it would involve penetrating the former Libyan government’s network firewalls, disrupting military communications and dissolving their ability to gather intelligence on the locations of NATO warplanes.
The plan was eventually aborted amid concerns that launching such an offensive could establish a dangerous precedent for other nations, namely China and Russia, to carry out similar operations of their own interest.
Facts on the ground in Libya also played a part in killing plans for a cyber offensive. At the time, Benghazi was on the verge of being overrun by Qaddafi and there was no promise that these capabilities could be ready for use in a timely fashion, according to a number of anonymous senior officials cited in the report.
Finally, officials said it was unclear whether authorizing a cyber-offensive would fall under the jurisdiction of the President or Congress. Congress is the only body mandated by the Constitution to declare war. But its authority to approve wars has weakened in recent decades, as the Executive Branch has found ways to characterize military actions as something short of full fledged war.
“We don’t want to be the ones who break the glass on this new kind of warfare,” John Andrew Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the New York Times.
Of course, quite to the contrary of Lewis’s point is the Stuxnet Worm, allegedly deployed more than a year ago to derail Iranian uranium enrichment efforts. While there has been no official confirmation of who designed the enormously complicated computer virus, it has been widely speculated that Stuxnet was the fruit of a joint U.S.-Israeli operation.
You can read the entire New York Times report here.