Panetta and US declaratory policy on preemptive cyber attacks

"We need to have the option to take action against those who would attack us"

From Leon Panetta, Department of Defense:  Potential aggressors should be aware that the United States has the capacity to locate them and to hold them accountable for their actions that may try to harm America.

But we won’t succeed in preventing a cyber attack through improved defenses alone.  If we detect an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant, physical destruction in the United States or kill American citizens, we need to have the option to take action against those who would attack us to defend this nation when directed by the president.

For these kinds of scenarios, the department has developed that capability to conduct effective operations to counter threats to our national interests in cyberspace.

Let me clear that we will only do so to defend our nation, to defend our interests, to defend our allies and we will only do so in a manner that is consistent with the policy principles and legal frameworks that the department follows for other domains including the law of armed conflict. 

Excerpt from remarks by Secretary Leon Panetta on Cybersecurity to the Business Executives for National Security, New York City.  (photo: Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/DoD)

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