What Happens When Counter-Cyberterrorism Leaves Cyberspace?
These are exigent times. In order to bring into clear view the gravity of the situation in which we find ourselves in, we must first illuminate the legal framework that allows our dire circumstances to exist. Let us first go back to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists law signed in 2001 by President George W. Bush shortly after 9/11 that, upon ratification, ushered in an era of permanent semi-global war. However, the heart of the law is the power detailed in Section 2 in which
…the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (which was upheld by a federal appeals court), under the guise of clarification, expands the persons covered under the AUMF into ambiguous territory to include
[a] person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
It is this expansion of covered persons that is used as justification for the indefinite detention of anyone by the US military. Furthermore, in conjunction with Title VIII of the USA PATRIOT Act, not only can persons deemed to possess any ties or relations (no matter how tenuous the auxiliary relationship is) with organizations the President deems as a terrorist organization, but if a person has provided material support to or harbored a member of a terrorist organization (especially if the death of a person occurs), then they are subject to life in prison. Of course, the modus operandi of distributing “justice” pursuant to these statutes is a system of secret military courts formally established in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which effectively extends military tribunals to the aforementioned covered persons.
However, recent revelations concerning Presidential Policy Directive 20, first reported on in the Washington Post, a secret directive President Obama signed in mid-October, has sparked fears that the directive paves the way for boots on the ground on the homefront in the name of cybersecurity. While the Pentagon considers cyberspace a domain in its purview, it has yet to establish concrete rules of engagement for cyberspace– it is for this reason that PPD20 was signed in order to
finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyberattack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.
However, the lack of concrete specifics had not hindered the Pentagon from declaring that a cyberattack can constitute as an act of war. While federal law prohibits the military from being deployed on US soil without an act of legislation beforehand, the possibility of the deployment of US military on american soil without the immediate forewarning of legislation has become a reality with section 1021 of NDAA 2012.
The question that then lies before us is what happens if (perhaps more appropriately when) Anonymous or groups like or associated with it are declared a terrorist organization and how many degrees of separation will save us?