Editorial: Pentagon warning

What constitutes war? Are we still at a place where it requires an attack on another country ... troops crossing the border, aircraft bombing civilians?

Or have we moved into another era — one in which “war” may be undeclared, bullet-less ... perhaps even unnoticed?

Take the “War on Terror” first declared by President George W. Bush.

It was in response to the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, and its first salvo was, oddly enough, fired at the American people.

Long before we invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to find and kill Osama bin Laden, Bush and his administration had launched an extensive expansion of wiretapping and digital intercepts, which included domestic telephone traffic. The USA PATRIOT Act of October 2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security combined to monitor financial transfers within the U.S. and to create a new category of prisoner — a “detainee.” These people — even if they are American citizens — have no rights under the law, and a writ of habeas corpus will not free them from jail.

Today, the intelligence apparatus of the government has been expanded enormously, spreading out to cover the country with new buildings, new organizations, new facilities — most with little oversight and “black” funding.

Computer-controlled drones fly around the globe, some with the capacity to kill, and nobody’s talking about what goes into the decision to unleash them.

Is that war?

What about the fact that, at least according to the Pentagon, the Chinese government is attacking us on a daily basis in the cyber world? Experts assert that, not only are the Chinese attempting to steal secrets from our industry, but are actually attacking U.S. government sites.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world,” the Pentagon charged, “including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military.”

It said China is using its cyber capabilities to collect intelligence against U.S. diplomatic, economic and defense programs. And the report warned that the computer skills needed for such espionage is similar to those needed to conduct cyber-warfare.

Let’s not forget that the first salvo in any real shooting war is likely to be an all-out attack on the enemy’s computers — military, commercial and financial — and that information need to wage such a battle is gained through cyber intelligence gathering.

Are we at war?

Would we know if we were?

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