Two news items grabbed me today:
“Al-Qaida Web site was hosted in Phoenix” which ran in the Arizona Republic today (http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0201terrorweb0201.html) and “Man your battle stations, we’re under cyber attack” which is an AP story that ran in the San Jose Mercury News (http://www.siliconvalley.com/ci_8137317?IADID=Search-www.siliconvalley.com-www.siliconvalley.com&nclick_check=1).
The Republic piece covers the story of “a well-known and popular forum for Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers” which was hosted in Phoenix (before the site was taken down by the ISP) among other places. The second piece describes the “Cyber Storm” exercise where according to the article “The incidents, designed to tax responders, were divided among categories: computer attacks, physical attacks and psychological operations.”
The incident categorization of: computer attacks, physical attacks and PSYOP works equally well as CNA, kinetic operations and PSYOP do in the military world. Today’s posting argues that US government influence Internet capabilities must be as robust and coordinated as well as those found in any multi-billion dollar corporation. Internet PSYOP can be easily defined as the use of Internet for influence operations in the same way that any major organization would employ the Internet to advance their business goals, sales and profits. Web sites, podcasts, webinars, blogs and the like are the stock in trade.
Now more than ever PSYOP tactical forces on the ground need the cover and support of Internet PSYOP based activities. Aggressive actions have been hampered in part because many in the PSYOP community have felt there are serious legal issues preventing exploitation of the Internet for influence activities. However, it appears to me as a licensed attorney that whatever conflicts may exist should be surmounted using the argument of “compelling state interest”. Since PSYOP is an important element of DOD operations, it is clearly a critical component of national security and therefore likely to be a solid reason to over ride many if not most legal conflicts. It would seem that Cyber PSYOP is small potatoes compared to the PATRIOT act, surveillance programs and other actions already countenanced under national security.
A national Internet offensive should reflect a true national influence effort and harmonize the messages from all the major stakeholders: the Executive Branch, Department of State and should draw expertise from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Treasury and others as needed.
Unless and until a concerted national Internet influence effort is undertaken our enemies will keep the cyber high ground and we will always be looking up the hill.