Really remarkable reporting here by the New York Times. Political intrigue, just war theory, and high-stakes spy games all at play.
Soon the two countries had developed a complex worm that the Americans called “the bug.” But the bug needed to be tested. So, under enormous secrecy, the United States began building replicas of Iran’s P-1 centrifuges, an aging, unreliable design that Iran purchased from Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear chief who had begun selling fuel-making technology on the black market. Fortunately for the United States, it already owned some P-1s, thanks to the Libyan dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.I gotta say, my reaction is: Damn Straight!
When Colonel Qaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003, he turned over the centrifuges he had bought from the Pakistani nuclear ring, and they were placed in storage at a weapons laboratory in Tennessee. The military and intelligence officials overseeing Olympic Games borrowed some for what they termed “destructive testing,” essentially building a virtual replica of Natanz, but spreading the test over several of the Energy Department’s national laboratories to keep even the most trusted nuclear workers from figuring out what was afoot.
Those first small-scale tests were surprisingly successful: the bug invaded the computers, lurking for days or weeks, before sending instructions to speed them up or slow them down so suddenly that their delicate parts, spinning at supersonic speeds, self-destructed. After several false starts, it worked.
Getting the worm into Natanz, however, was no easy trick. The United States and Israel would have to rely on engineers, maintenance workers and others — both spies and unwitting accomplices — with physical access to the plant. “That was our holy grail,” one of the architects of the plan said. “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand.”
In fact, thumb drives turned out to be critical in spreading the first variants of the computer worm; later, more sophisticated methods were developed to deliver the malicious code.
The first attacks were small, and when the centrifuges began spinning out of control in 2008, the Iranians were mystified about the cause, according to intercepts that the United States later picked up. “The thinking was that the Iranians would blame bad parts, or bad engineering, or just incompetence,” one of the architects of the early attack said.
Yes, its true, like we were the first nation-state to employ a nuclear weapon...we are now the first nation-state to employ a computer virus to enable physical destruction. But we did it to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. To prevent or at least delay a potentially devastating war.
Its resulted in significant damage, confusion, and setback to Iran's uranium enrichment programs, without the inevitable consequences of attempting the same damage via airstrikes. Buying time for economic sanctions to do their work, and for diplomats to try and sway Iranian negotiators.
Some estimates say that the virus did MORE damage to Iran's enrichement than any conventional airstrike could hope to accomplish, in part because it was able to do its work without immediately alerting to Iranian technicians that anything was going wrong.
Time and again, our Commander-in-Chief has shown there is a 'third way' in pursuing our national security needs. Hostage scenarios, hunting Al Qaeda, dismantling the Gaddafi Regime. Neither impulsively jumping into conflict, nor backing down from threats. Maximizing gains while minimizing risks to American lives & interests.
In the old debate between Hawk & Dove, he is an Owl.
Stick that in your thumb drive and download it Rumsfeld.