The United States and Iran have secretly conducted cyber warfare against each other it was revealed even as Secretary of State John Kerry held emergency meetings with Iranian officials to break the deadlock on a nuclear deal.
The use of software weapons to spy on and sabotage each other emerged in a National Security Agency document, written two years ago by Gen. Keith Alexander, then the director of the National Security Agency, The New York Times reported
Alexander revealed that Iranian officials had discovered evidence in 2012 that the U.S. had arranged to hack into the Islamic Republic's computer system for an extensive surveillance program as well as virtual attacks on their networks.
The document revealed that the U.S. and Britain had tried to implement damage control when Iran discovered that "computer network exploitation tools" had been installed by the Western powers.
Iran learned of the planned computer attacks two years after the so-called "Stuxnet worm" virus placed by the United States and Israel severely impeded the computer networks at Tehran's nuclear enrichment plant.
The newly-disclosed data was first reported earlier this month by The Intercept
, an online publication that was initially formed to disseminate information from fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
The NSA admitted that its attacks on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, first launched during George W. Bush's presidency, started a "cycle of retaliation and escalation" between the U.S. and the Mideast country using computers as weapons.
"The document suggested that even while the high-stakes nuclear negotiations played out in Europe, day-to-day hostilities between the United States and Iran had moved decisively into cyberspace," wrote the Times' David Sanger.
"The potential cost of using nuclear weapons was so high that no one felt they could afford to use them," said David Rothkopf, the author of "National Insecurity" on strategic decisions made by several American administrations.
On the other hand, the cost of using cyber weapons is so low that Rothkopf maintains that the U.S. seems "to feel we can't afford not to use them" and that "many may feel they can't afford ever to stop."
Kerry was due to meet for two days in Geneva this week with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to break the stalemate on nuke talks after the secretary of state had warned "significant gaps" remain ahead of a key deadline.
World powers are trying to strike a deal
with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of punishing international economic sanctions. Iran has denied its nuclear program has military objectives.
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