9/11 Commission: Cyberattack on US Is Imminent Threat

Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 09:12 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Terrorists are plotting a cyberattack against the United States that is tantamount to 9/11, and the American public is acutely uninformed about the grave danger, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Members of the former 9/11 Commission, formed to investigate and analyze the terrorist attacks, will release a report today stating a growing complacency has set in since 2001, despite heightened threats facing the country.

For the 10th anniversary of the release of the 9/11 report, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks met to assess the current national security climate and how the government is handling it. As part of their undertaking, the panel interviewed current and former intelligence officials, the Journal reports.

In the report, most top spy officials pointed to cyberattacks as a "growing danger that the government has yet to adequately address," according to the Journal.

The Washington Post reports that the panel’s most recent findings indicate that cyberspace is the "battlefield of the future" and advocate for cybersecurity legislation allowing private companies to work with the government to counter the threat. National security is tantamount to privacy protection. Additionally, the public should be made aware of the seriousness of the looming threat, according to the panel.

"Platitudes will not persuade the public," the authors wrote.

In 2012, then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that terrorists were targeting computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity, and water plants, and those that guide transportation throughout the country, Bloomberg reported at the time.

"We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems," Panetta said. "We also know they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, destruction, and even the loss of life."

He explained that an attacker could derail trains, contaminate the water supply, or shut down power grids across the country by gaining access to control switches.

It’s important, according to the report’s authors, that Americans learn of the threats before it’s too late.

"History may be repeating itself in the cyber realm," the report states. "Complacency is setting in. There is a danger that this waning sense of urgency will divert attention and needed resources from counterterrorism efforts."

The report’s recommendations include less fragmented congressional oversight (the Department of Homeland Security currently answers to 92 congressional committees, according to the Post), allowing private companies to work with the government to counter terrorist threats, and additional transparency — such as declassifying earlier reports — so that the public can understand what’s going on.

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