FAS Website Blocked by US Cyber Command, Then Unblocked

For at least the past six months, and perhaps longer, the Federation of American Scientists website has been blocked by U.S. Cyber Command. This week it was unblocked.

The “block” imposed by Cyber Command meant that employees throughout the Department of Defense who attempted to access the FAS website on their government computers were unable to do so. Instead, they were presented with a notice stating: “You have attempted to access a blocked website. Access to this website has been blocked for operational reasons by the DOD Enterprise-Level Protection System.”

The basis for the Cyber Command block is unclear, and official documentation of the decision that we requested has not yet been provided. In all likelihood, it is due to the presence on the FAS website of a small number of currently classified documents that were obtained in the public domain.

The basis for the removal of the block is likewise unclear, though we know that a number of DoD employees complained about the move and advised US Cyber Command that direct access to the FAS website was needed for them to perform their job.

The record of a 2015 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on Implementing the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy was published last month.

Cyber “Emergency” Order Nets No Culprits

In April 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13694 declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat of hostile cyber activity against the United States.

But six months later, the emergency powers that he invoked to punish offenders had still not been used because no qualifying targets were identified, according to a newly released Treasury Department report.

In a White House statement coinciding with the release of last year’s Executive Order, the President said that “Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges to the United States, and my Administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront them….  This Executive Order offers a targeted tool for countering the most significant cyber threats that we face.”

The Executive Order authorized the Secretary of the Treasury “to impose sanctions on individuals or entities that engage in malicious cyber-enabled activities that create a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States.”

But although the criminal justice system has produced indictments against suspected Chinese and Iranian hackers, the President’s cyber “emergency” regime has not yielded any comparable results.

In the first periodic report on the implementation of the order, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said that “No entities or individuals have been designated pursuant to E.O. 13694.” Accordingly, the Department of the Treasury took no punitive licensing actions, and it assessed no monetary penalties, Secretary Lew wrote.

A copy of the Treasury report was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. See Periodic Report on the National Emergency With Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities, October 1, 2015.

Even though it generated no policy outputs, implementation of the executive order nevertheless incurred costs of “approximately $760,000, most of which represent wage and salary costs for federal personnel,” the Treasury report said.

Unbeknownst to most people, there are typically multiple “national emergencies” in progress at any given time. A helpful introduction to the subject was prepared by then-CRS specialist Harold C. Relyea a decade ago.

By invoking emergency powers derived from the Constitution or from statutory law, Relyea wrote, “the President may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens. [However], Congress may modify, rescind, or render dormant such delegated emergency authority.” See National Emergency Powers, updated August 30, 2007.

One other ongoing “emergency” pertains to North Korea. A Treasury Department Periodic Report on the National Emergency With Respect to North Korea, dated May 21, 2015, reveals that five financial transactions involving North Korean agents or interests — and totaling $23,200 — were blocked by executive order between December 2014 and April 2015. That’s an increase from $17,600 during the previous reporting period.

A Bureaucratic History of Cyber War

When Gen. Keith Alexander became the new director of the National Security Agency in 2005, “his predecessor, Mike Hayden, stepped down, seething with suspicion”– towards Alexander.

As told by Fred Kaplan in his new book Dark Territory, Gen. Hayden and Gen. Alexander had clashed years before in a struggle “for turf and power, leaving Hayden with a bitter taste, a shudder of distrust, about every aspect and activity of the new man in charge.” The feeling was mutual.

The subject (and subtitle) of Kaplan’s book is “the secret history of cyber war.” But the most interesting secrets disclosed here have less to do with any classified missions or technologies than with the internal bureaucratic evolution of the military’s interest in cyber space. Who met with whom, who was appointed to what position, or even (as in the case of Hayden and Alexander) who may have hated whom all turn out to be quite important in the ongoing development of this contested domain.

Kaplan seems to have interviewed almost all of the major players and participants in this history, and he has an engaging story to tell. (Two contrasting reviews of Dark Territory in the New York Times are here and here.)

Meanwhile, the history of cyber war is becoming gradually less secret.

This week, the Department of Defense openly published an updated instruction on Cybersecurity Activities Support to DoD Information Network Operations (DoD Instruction 8530.01, March 7).

It replaces, incorporates and cancels previous directives from 2001 that were for restricted distribution only.

The Federal Cybersecurity Workforce, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

The Federal Cybersecurity Workforce: Background and Congressional Oversight Issues for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, January 8, 2016

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): In Brief, updated January 8, 2016

American Agriculture and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, January 8, 2016

Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress, updated January 11, 2016

Guatemala: One President Resigns; Another Elected, to Be Inaugurated January 14, CRS Insight, updated January 11, 2016

China’s Recent Stock Market Volatility: What Are the Implications?, CRS Insight, updated January 9, 2016

Navy John Lewis (TAO-205) Class Oiler Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated January 8, 2016

Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress, updated January 8, 2016 (This report explains that “John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers, previously known as TAO(X)s, are being named for people who fought for civil rights and human rights.” An oiler is a fuel resupply vessel that is used to transfer fuel to surface ships at sea.)

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, updated January 8, 2016

Free Riders or Compelled Riders? Key Takeaways as Court Considers Major Union Dues Case, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 12, 2016

Unauthorized Aliens, Higher Education, In-State Tuition, and Financial Aid: Legal Analysis, updated January 11, 2016

The TRIO Programs: A Primer, updated January 11, 2016

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016: Effects on Budgetary Trends, CRS Insight, January 11, 2016

President Obama Announces Executive Actions to “Reduce Gun Violence”, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 8, 2016

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends, updated January 8, 2016

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG): Background and Funding, updated January 8, 2016

Drones, Pope Francis, Encryption, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service looks at the commercial prospects for the emerging drone industry.

“It has been estimated that, over the next 10 years, worldwide production of UAS for all types of applications could rise from $4 billion annually to $14 billion. However, the lack of a regulatory framework, which has delayed commercial deployment, may slow development of a domestic UAS manufacturing industry,” the report said. See Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Commercial Outlook for a New Industry, September 9, 2015.

In advance of the September 2227 visit to the United States by Pope Francis, another new CRS report “provides Members of Congress with background information on Pope Francis and a summary of a few selected global issues of congressional interest that have figured prominently on his agenda.” See Pope Francis and Selected Global Issues: Background for Papal Address to Congress, September 8, 2015.

Another new report from CRS on encryption and law enforcement presents “an overview of the perennial issue involving technology outpacing law enforcement and discusses how policy makers and law enforcement officials have dealt with this issue in the past.” See Encryption and Evolving Technology: Implications for U.S. Law Enforcement, September 8, 2015.

Other new and newly updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Syrian Refugee Admissions to the United StatesCRS Insight, September 10, 2015

An Analysis of Efforts to Double Federal Funding for Physical Sciences and Engineering Research, updated September 8, 2015

Cybersecurity: Data, Statistics, and Glossaries, updated September 8, 2015

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents, updated September 8, 2015

The EMV Chip Card Transition: Background, Status, and Issues for Congress, updated September 8, 2015

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive, udpated September 10, 2015

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated September 8, 2015

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, updated September 10, 2015

Iran Nuclear Agreement, updated September 9, 2015

Statutory Qualifications for Executive Branch Positions, updated September 9, 2015

Federal Reserve: Emergency Lending, September 8, 2015

 

Pentagon’s Cyber Mission Force Takes Shape

The Department of Defense plans to complete the establishment of a new Cyber Mission Force made up of 133 teams of more than 6000 “cyber operators” by 2018, and it’s already nearly halfway there.

From FY2014-2018, DoD intends to spend $1.878 billion dollars to pay for the Cyber Missions Force consisting of approximately 6100 individuals in the four military services, DoD said in response to a question for the record that was published in a congressional hearing volume last month.

“This effort began in October 2013 and today we have 3100 personnel assigned to 58 of the 133 teams,” or nearly 50% of the intended capacity, DoD wrote in response to a question from Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) of the House Armed Services Committee. The response was included in the published record of a February 26, 2015 Committee hearing (page 67).

The DoD Cyber Mission Force was described in an April 2015 DoD Cyber Strategy and in April 2015 testimony by Assistant Secretary of Defense Eric Rosenbach:

“The Department of Defense has three primary missions in cyberspace: (1) defend DoD information networks to assure DoD missions, (2) defend the United States against cyberattacks of significant consequence, and (3) provide full-spectrum cyber options to support contingency plans and military operations,” Mr. Rosenbach said.

“To carry out these missions, we are building the Cyber Mission Force and equipping it with the appropriate tools and infrastructure to operate in cyberspace. Once fully manned, trained, and equipped in Fiscal Year 2018, these 133 teams will execute USCYBERCOM’s three primary missions with nearly 6,200 military and civilian personnel,” Mr. Rosenbach said at an April 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The new Cyber Mission Force will naturally have both defensive and offensive characteristics.

“Congressman, we are building these cyber teams… in order to, one, protect ourselves from cyber attacks,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. “We are being probed on a daily basis by a variety of different actors.”

“The protection side is one thing,” said Rep. Larsen at the February hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. “What about the other side?”

“The other aspect of it, we are distributing these forces out to the various combatant commands so that they can be integrated into our overall joint military force capability,” Adm. Haney replied.

*    *    *

“Worldwide Cyber Threats” was the subject of an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

The foreign intrusions suffered by U.S. government and private networks have yielded some useful lessons, said Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.

“Of late, unauthorized disclosures and foreign defensive improvements have cost us some technical accesses, but we are also deriving valuable new insight from cyber security investigations of incidents caused by foreign actors and new means of aggregating and processing big data. Those avenues will help offset some more traditional collection modes that are obsolescent,” he told the Committee.

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Comparison of H.R. 1560 and H.R. 1731, April 20, 2015

FY2016 Appropriations for the Department of Justice (DOJ), April 15, 2015

Domestic Human Trafficking Legislation in the 114th Congress, April 16, 2015

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions, April 20, 2015

Mountaintop Mining: Background on Current Controversies, April 20, 2015

FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program: Background and Considerations for Congress, April 16, 2015

Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress, April 17, 2015

DoD Cyber Operations, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service presents an introduction to U.S. military operations in cyberspace and the thorny policy issues that arise from them.

“This report presents an overview of the threat landscape in cyberspace, including the types of offensive weapons available, the targets they are designed to attack, and the types of actors carrying out the attacks. It presents a picture of what kinds of offensive and defensive tools exist and a brief overview of recent attacks. The report then describes the current status of U.S. capabilities, and the national and international authorities under which the U.S. Department of Defense carries out cyber operations.”

The Department of Defense requested $5.1 billion for “cybersecurity” in 2015, the CRS report noted. Cybersecurity here includes funding for cyberspace operations, information assurance, U.S. Cyber Command, the National Cybersecurity Initiative, and related functions. See Cyber Operations in DoD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress, January 5, 2015.

(The CRS report includes only a capsule summary description of the Stuxnet episode.  A fuller account is presented in Kim Zetter’s gripping book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon.)

Other noteworthy new and updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief, December 24, 2014

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action of November 20, 2014: Overview and Issues, January 8, 2015

Proposed Retirement of A-10 Aircraft: Background in Brief, January 5, 2015

American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, January 2, 2015

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, December 31, 2014

Secret Sessions of the House and Senate: Authority, Confidentiality, and Frequency, December 30, 2014

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, December 24, 2014

Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress, December 23, 2014

Definitions of “Inherently Governmental Function” in Federal Procurement Law and Guidance, December 23, 2014

Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2015, January 3, 2015

The Congressional Research Service has never been more frequently cited or more influential in informing public discourse than it is today, as its publications are increasingly shared with the public in violation of official policy.

But budget cuts and congressional dysfunction seem to have bred discontent among some staff members, judging from an article by former CRS analyst Kevin R. Kosar.

“Thanks to growing pressure from a hyper-partisan Congress, my ability to write clearly and forthrightly about the problems of government–and possible solutions–was limited. And even when we did find time and space to do serious research, lawmakers ignored our work or trashed us if our findings ran contrary to their beliefs. When no legislation is likely to move through the system, there’s simply not much market for the work the CRS, at its best, can do,” he wrote. See “Why I Quit the Congressional Research Service,” Washington Monthly, January/February 2015.

Offensive Cyber Operations in US Military Doctrine

A newly disclosed Department of Defense doctrinal publication acknowledges the reality of offensive cyberspace operations, and provides a military perspective on their utility and their hazards.

Attacks in cyberspace can be used “to degrade, disrupt, or destroy access to, operation of, or availability of a target by a specified level for a specified time.” Or they can be used “to control or change the adversary’s information, information systems, and/or networks in a manner that supports the commander’s objectives.”

However, any offensive cyber operations (OCO) must be predicated on “careful consideration of projected effects” and “appropriate consideration of nonmilitary factors such as foreign policy implications.”

“The growing reliance on cyberspace around the globe requires carefully controlling OCO, requiring national level approval,” according to the newly disclosed Cyberspace Operations, Joint Publication 3-12(R).

That publication was first issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a SECRET document in February 2013 (as JP 3-12, without the R). But this week it was reissued as a public document. It is unclear whether the public document has been redacted or modified for release.

The discussion of “offensive cyberspace operations” in the original, classified version of JP 3-12 led to adoption of that term in the official DoD lexicon for the first time in March 2013, where it has remained through the latest edition.

Offensive cyberspace operations (OCO) are “intended to project power by the application of force in and through cyberspace. OCO will be authorized like offensive operations in the physical domains, via an execute order (EXORD).”

The DoD document is fairly candid about the challenges and limitations of cyberspace operations.

“Activities in cyberspace by a sophisticated adversary may be difficult to detect” and to attribute to their source. Yet such detection and attribution capabilities are “critical” for enabling offensive and defensive cyberspace operations.

By the same token, “first-order effects of [US cyberspace operations] are often subtle, and assessment of second- and third-order effects can be difficult,” requiring “significant intelligence capabilities and collection efforts” to evaluate.

Not only that, but US cyberspace operations “could potentially compromise intelligence collection activities. An IGL [Intelligence Gain/Loss] assessment is required prior to executing a CO to the maximum extent practicable.”

In any event, offensive cyber operations are to be used discriminatingly. “Military attacks will be directed only at military targets. Only a military target is a lawful object of direct attack.” But military targets are defined broadly as “those objects whose total or partial destruction, capture, or neutralization offers a direct and concrete military advantage.”

Meanwhile, there are persistent vulnerabilities inherent in DoD information systems, DoD said. “Many critical [US] legacy systems are not built to be easily modified or patched. As a result, many of the risks incurred across DOD are introduced via unpatched (and effectively unpatchable) systems on the DODIN [DoD Information Network].”

The risks are increased because “DOD classified and unclassified networks are targeted by myriad actions, from foreign nations to malicious insiders.”

“Insider threats are one of the most significant threats to the joint force,” the DoD document said.  “Whether malicious insiders are committing espionage, making a political statement, or expressing personal disgruntlement, the consequences for DOD, and national security, can be devastating.”

Overall, “Developments in cyberspace provide the means for the US military, its allies, and partner nations to gain and maintain a strategic, continuing advantage,” the Cyberspace Operations publication said.

But “access to the Internet provides adversaries the capability to compromise the integrity of US critical infrastructures in direct and indirect ways.”

These features represent “a paradox within cyberspace: the prosperity and security of our nation have been significantly enhanced by our use of cyberspace, yet these same developments have led to increased vulnerabilities….”

NSA Releases NSPD-54 on Cybersecurity Policy

In January 2008, the Bush Administration issued the Top Secret National Security Presidential Directive 54 on Cybersecurity Policy which “establishes United States policy, strategy, guidelines, and implementation actions to secure cyberspace.”

Despite its relevance to a central public policy issue, both the Bush and Obama Administrations had refused to release the Directive.

But last week, in response to a five-year Freedom of Information Act effort by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the National Security Agency released a lightly redacted version of the document, most of which had been unclassified all along.

“This Directive, which is the foundational legal document for all cybersecurity policies in the United States, evidences government efforts to enlist private sector companies, more broadly monitor Internet activity, and develop offensive cybersecurity capability,” said EPIC in its release of the document.