June 2, 2012

Author Claims Obama Ordered Stuxnet Attacks

The rumors that the United States was involved in the Stuxnet attack on Iran are true, and were part of a large-scale cyber sabotage campaign launched against the aspiring nuclear power spearheaded by President Barack Obama, claims the author of a forthcoming book.

In a June 1 New York Times article that was adapted from his book "Confront and Conceal: Obama´s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power," author David E. Sanger wrote that from Obama "secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran´s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America´s first sustained use of cyberweapons."

The attacks, code-named Olympic Games, had been initiated under Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush. However, it was the sitting President who "decided to accelerate the attacks“¦ even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran´s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet," he added. "Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet."

The book, which will be released Tuesday and is being published by Crown Publishing Group, reveals that the U.S. developed Stuxnet with the assistance of a top-secret Israeli intelligence group, Christopher Williams of the Telegraph reported on Friday.

The revelation, which allegedly came from top Washington inside sources, "confirms the suspicions of computer security experts who detected and forensically examined Stuxnet in 2010," Williams said. "They reasoned that the technical expertise and human intelligence sources needed to create and deliver what was described as the 'world's first cyberweapon' pointed to a joint operation by American and Israeli agencies."

After Stuxnet's escape, President Obama reportedly asked his national security advisers whether or not the attacks should be halted. He was told that they were unsure exactly how much the Iran government knew about the malicious code, and that it was still successfully disabling centrifuges at the Natanz facility, he opted to allow them to proceed, eventually even intensifying them. Ultimately, one-fifth of the 5,000 centrifuges being used to purify uranium there were temporarily crippled due to Stuxnet, according to the reports.

"This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts," Sanger said. "None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day."

"These officials gave differing assessments of how successful the sabotage program was in slowing Iran´s progress toward developing the ability to build nuclear weapons," he added. "Internal Obama administration estimates say the effort was set back by 18 months to two years, but some experts inside and outside the government are more skeptical, noting that Iran´s enrichment levels have steadily recovered, giving the country enough fuel today for five or more weapons, with additional enrichment."

Stuxnet was first detected in July 2010, and is believed to be the first computer virus that specifically targets the controls at power plants or other industrial facilities. Back in March, Retired Gen. Mike Hayden, a former head of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), told the CBS News program 60 Minutes that he did not know who was behind the virus, despite ongoing speculation at the time that the U.S. had been involved.