President Barack Obama ordered a secret wave of sophisticated computer attacks on Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities, according to the New York Times.
Obama decided to accelerate the program, begun under the Bush administration and code-named "Olympic Games," even after the some of the computer worm used in the cyberattacks was revealed on the Internet, the Times reported today.
"Olympic Games" was a joint venture between the U.S. and Israel designed to take down the Iranian nuclear program using the worm dubbed Stuxnet, the story indicated.
When an error accidentally allowed Stuxnet to "escape" Iran's Natanz plant, Obama and his team convened to discuss the situation as described in the story:
Should we shut this thing down?" Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president's national security team who were in the room.
Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium.
Obama's decision in the early months of his presidency to push the attacks marked America's first sustained use of cyberweapons, and it resulted in physical damage to Iran's Natanz plant, according the piece.
The Times story was written by correspondent David Sanger and was adapted from his book, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power." It was based off interviews with anonymous intelligence sources with access to the highly-classified program, The Atlantic Wire reports.
The Atlantic Wire story called the book excerpt "a fascinating story about how Stuxnet was developed and deployed, but also hints at larger questions about the use of cyberweapons and how they could come back to haunt the United States."
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