When Is Hacking An Act Of War?

When Is Hacking An Act Of War?


Leonard Zwelling

I don’t understand why the federal government, and particularly the president, is so calm about the ransom ware attacks on American industry. First, the Colonial Pipeline’s software was hijacked and now a large meatpacker JBS was hacked and forced to shutdown operations for a day or two. Hospitals have been targets and so have many other businesses in the U.S.

It seems to me that if the Russians dropped a bomb on the pipeline or the meatpacking plant, we would declare war on Russia. Why is this any different? What am I missing?

The argument goes that these are not sovereign countries doing this mischief, but private criminals. Right. I am sure Putin has no idea who these hackers are and did not sanction any of their actions. Not!

I have only two questions. First, are we doing the same thing to them? It would make me feel better if I thought that we were mounting a national response to this criminal activity. Second, what’s it going to take to get Mr. Biden to deny Putin the legitimacy of a summit in the face of his support for these attacks on our infrastructure? Biden shouldn’t be talking to Putin about this, he should be warning him that the next one will be the last.

I never thought that the attacks by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001 were acts of war. They were not promulgated by another nation state and not committed by uniformed combatants. 9/11 was a mass murder and the criminals who were left alive and who were responsible should have been captured, tried and convicted. That Osama was killed is a fine outcome albeit it took way too long. We should have been more ready then and we should be more ready now for these cyber attacks. These are criminal acts supported by national governments. The criminals should be pursued, across international borders if need be, and any abetting national governments should be sanctioned severely and that means no summit.

In Mr. Biden’s rush to hand out trillions of dollars to eliminate gaps in equality that he claims are products of racism, he may be neglecting our security from bad international actors. One lives in Moscow. There should be no meetings with Putin until he demonstrates a willingness to eliminate these cyber criminals from his payroll and his country. Ditto the Chinese who use every trick in the book to steal our intellectual property. The United States has to get serious about international security and be ready to sever relationships with sovereign states that do not act in good faith and are not to be trusted, And while we are at it, let’s really squeeze China where it hurts and cut off the visas from their citizens coming to the United States, especially students. Academic medicine can survive without them in this country. They cannot survive without us.

One of the things that Donald Trump embodied was a sense of American superiority. This was not healthy on the international front as it turned off allies and emboldened our enemies like Putin. But say what you want about Trump, he projected American power. Now Biden needs to do the same and now is a perfect opportunity to do so.

Cut off Putin and President Xi too if need be. Like it or not, we seem to be at war with both Russia and China and probably Iran as well. This is not a friendly world. It is a hostile one. We need to start acting like we understand that our enemies are animals and will stop at nothing to defeat us.

When we face criminals, we need to use police tactics and enlist the help of the nations that harbor the criminals. If those nations will not cooperate, sanction them. But certainly, this is no time to give Mr. Putin an opportunity to appear to be on equal footing with the United States. He’s a thug and we should not pretend otherwise. So are the leaders in Beijing and Teheran.

Get real, Joe. You’re the good guy. Act like it.

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