President Obama has been granted broad powers to order a pre-emptive cyberattack against China or other powers if there is credible evidence of an incoming catastrophic digital attack from abroad. The New York Times‘ David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker report that a secret legal review has tasked the Commander-in-Chief with ordering cyberattacks, and makes explicit comparisons to the President’s ability and duty to order nuclear strikes.
The legal review is expected to cause legal and ethical confusion similar to that surrounding armed drone strikes abroad. In recent weeks, the Pentagon has announced massive resource allocations for cyberwarriors in both offensive and defensive capabilities. The American government and military, along with many elements in the private sector, fear foreign actors could cripple the U.S. economy by taking banks and utilities offline–spurring talk of a cyberdraft.