President Barack Obama secretly ordered attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities as early as his first months in office, according to the New York Times
. Program participants said the order significantly expanded America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons.
Obama accelerated the attacks even after a part of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010, the Times said. Computer security experts named the worm, which was reportedly developed by the United States and Israel, Stuxnet.
Iran initially denied that its enrichment facilities had been hit by the worm and later said it had been contained, forming its own cyberunit last year. U.S. intelligence concluded that Iran suspended major parts of its weaponization effort after 2003, though evidence shows some parts continue.
The U.S. government only recently acknowledged developing cyberweapons, but has never admitted using them.
Participants say Obama knew he was pushing the United States into new territory and was concerned that acknowledging it would allow other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks, according to the Times.
President George W. Bush initiated U.S. cyberattacks as a nonmilitary option to deal with Iran in 2006 under the code-name Olympic Games. Hawks in the Bush administration pushed for a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, but the administration concluded that it would further inflame a region already at war.
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