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Cyber Command may soon watch over us

By Peter Coates - posted Friday, 10 November 2006


The US appears to be planning to intensify its worldwide surveillance of communications, including the Internet, as part of the War on Terror. This is to be partially achieved through an organisation to be called, at this stage, “Cyber Command”.

A US Air Force (USAF) article, on October 5, 2006, has provided some graphic details of the thinking behind Cyber Command.

[US] Air Force leaders are gathering in early November to discuss plans for creation of a new command, one chartered with flying and fighting in cyber space. Cyberspace became an official Air Force domain, like air and space, on Dec. 7, 2005, when Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley introduced a new mission statement.

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The new mission is to “deliver sovereign options for the defence of the United States of America and its global interests - to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace”.

It’s not surprising that the USAF is concerned with aircraft, satellites and missiles (of Strategic Air Command) because they fly.

But what stretches credulity is that the USAF, through Cyber Command, may be getting into the civilian communications area. The logic for this USAF expansion, judging by the USAF article, is that electrons, essential to all communications, also fly (or at least move in three dimensions).

The cyber domain includes all the places an electron travels including landline, Internet and wireless communications. This means that Australia’s phone network including Internet sites will potentially be a monitoring area involving Cyber Command.

Dr Lani Kass, Director of the US Air Force Cyberspace Task Force and formerly a major in the Israeli Defence Force, describes the Cyber Command concept this way:

“The chief of staff of the Air Force is going to gather his senior officers and talk about the new domain, in which, according to our mission, we are going to fly and fight … our objective is to come out with a course, a vector, that will set us up for transforming our Air Force, to get us ready for the fight of the 21st century.”

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“The [cyber] domain is defined by the electromagnetic spectrum,” Dr Kass said. “It's a domain just like air, space, land and sea. It is a domain in and through which we deliver effects - fly and fight, attack and defend - and conduct operations to obtain our national interests.”

“Cyberspace is something on which, as a technologically advanced nation, the United States is hugely dependent,” Dr Kass said. “You use your ATM card, you use your cell phone and you go to an Internet cafe. If somebody is pregnant, they go have a sonogram. If they are sick, they have an X-ray or an MRI. All those things are in cyberspace. Our life has become totally bounded, dependent on cyberspace. Therefore, the importance of that domain is not only for how we fight, but also for our way of life.”

Dr Kass continues reasonably “Enemies who cannot match us on land, at sea, in the air, or in space, are exploiting the fact that in cyberspace you have a very low entry cost. Low cost is what makes that domain extremely attractive to nations, criminal and terrorist organi zations who could not possibly attack the United States symmetrically. All you need to do is buy a laptop or a cell phone. As a matter of fact, you can just go to an Internet café and not even buy that stuff. You can buy yourself a phone card and you can cause high-impact effects.”

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About the Author

Peter Coates has been writing articles on military, security and international relations issues since 2006. In 2014 he completed a Masterís Degree in International Relations, with a high distinction average. His website is Submarine Matters.

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