Catastrophe Ahead

Author: Gary Hart

Sooner rather than later we will experience a major cyberattack on one or more parts of our critical infrastructure.  We will not know, at least immediately, where it has originated from because it will be redirected through a number of cut outs.  It could come from a major national power or from renegade cyber pirates.  Its target will most certainly be either our transportation, communications, financial, or energy networks.

Whatever the target system, the result will be catastrophic.

We actually entered the international cyber era with the Russian disruption of our 2016 elections representing an attack on the fundamental aspect of our democracy.  That is just the beginning.

In 1999, I was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, the most far-reaching analysis of our national security challenges since a series of similar assessments following World War II.  We concluded that “America will be attacked by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and Americans will die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.”  That language was repeated in our final report on 31 January 2011, eight months before 9/11.

A similar study undertaken today by experienced security experts would surely contain similar language: “America will be attacked by terrorists using cyber technology and one or more of America’s critical infrastructure systems will massively disrupt American lives.”

This is going to happen soon.  As we were not prepared for 9/11, we are not prepared for this kind of warfare.

Though Senator John McCain, among a few others, has sought to pass legislation requiring national protection of our critical infrastructure, Congress seems unconcerned.  Equally unconcerned is the Executive branch.  Unlike many other countries, virtually all our financial, transportation, energy, and communications systems are in private corporate ownership.  Through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies, these corporate structures resist any attempt to mandate cyber security systems.

If your political philosophy is “leave me alone” regarding government mandates, this fits that pattern.  But this is not just “play fair” regulation.  This is “our nation is in danger and you must help protect our nation.”

This is one of those times where the laissez faire philosophy must give way to national security.

In 1940, Pearl Harbor was required to wake Americans up.  In 2001, 9/11 was required to wake Americans up.

If a cyber attack shuts down our telephone and computer systems, or our air traffic control systems with thousands of planes in the air, or our entire electrical grid, or our complex banking system, it will be disastrous, but Americans will wake up too late once again.

The cry will be: Why weren’t we warned?  For eight months before 9/11, I was one of a very few that continued to warn about terrorist attacks on America.

Consider this a warning.

2 Responses to “Catastrophe Ahead”

  1. Gary Hart Says:

    Apologies to all the regulars on this site. About 48 hours ago I was prohibited from using the site by an error message. It has taken all this time to recover the site and post this essay. It was written a day or so before Senator Dan Coates, now director of National Intelligence, issued a very similar warning. Certainly there is a coalescing sense of danger in the air.
    To heighten the danger, hours ago our president took the word of Russia’s president regarding Russia’s interference with our last national election over the unanimous judgment of all US intelligence agencies. Thus, even if he is warned that the Russians or others are planning a major cyber attack he will not believe it. The danger is now compounded. Gary Hart

  2. Neil McCarthy Says:

    In view of what Trump said today in Finland apropos of refusing (again) to hold Russia responsible for the 2016 cyber attacks on the election, are we not at the point where Trump should be accused of treason and impeachment begun? I don’t like Pence but I do not think he would behave similarly were he President. And I think the inability of the present GOP Congress to respond to the reality of the cyber war that now exists is largely a function of their fear of Trump; were Trump gone, I believe they would respond. Host’s views on this question requested, as well as any information he might have on the views of others with his background and experience (e.g., Bill Cohen, John Danforth, Walter Mondale, the Bushes, etc.).

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