I was one of the first to report about the source of the Stuxnet computer virus in The American Conservative magazine back in December 2010. It was created in an Israeli laboratory at its Dimona nuclear facility. The New York Times picked up the story over a year later. We have now learned, from a deliberate leak, that the US National Security Agency and Department of Energy helped the Israelis to develop the virus and that an infected component was placed in the Iranian computer network with the assistance of the CIA (apparently using an agent affiliated with the Mujaheddin e Khalq supplied by the Israelis).
The timing of the leak of the story by the White House is, of course, interesting. It clearly is intended to burnish President Obama’s national security credentials, demonstrating that the White House is wisely covertly waging war against Iran to avoid a shooting war. At least that is the spin. But Obama is nevertheless waging war, which the Iranians have already noted, and which will make any agreement on their nuclear program impossible. So rather than mitigating what Washington and Tel Aviv are describing as the serious problem posed by possible Iranian ambitions, it has only made the issue insoluble without an actual armed conflict. So much for war by proxy.
But the more disturbing aspect of the story is the apparent enthusiasm by the White House to engage in de facto warfare as long as there are no boots on the ground and Americans being killed. The decision to go after Iran by computer virus was apparently made by President Bush but became effective shortly after Obama took office. Cyberwarfare, which is now a reality rather than just a Pentagon money pit, is in a league with drones. They both make it possible to attack another country without the type of disagreeable consequences that normally, in the past, eventually brought about an end to the fighting. Perpetual warfare by other means is now an aspect of governance for the United States. And both Stuxnet and drones are a contagion. The virus is not containable and has already been cloned by hackers while drone technology is becoming cheaper and will no doubt be the no-war no-peace option for many countries with unstable borders. Both the virus and the drone technology will, and have already, spilled over into the United States. Drones have increased the government’s ability to surveil the public everywhere all the time and we have just learned of yet a new official lab created virus called Flame, which has also migrated to personal and business computers.