The Biden administration may hit the “undo” button on a 2018 Trump-administration document that gave the Defense Department unusual flexibility to take aggressive action against computing systems and adversaries’ networks.
CyberScoop’s Suzanne Smalley reported on this potential change on Thursday, informing the two on “discussions around an inter-agency review of National Security President’s Memorandum-13 (NSPM-13), a classified directive issued in September 2018. sources” were cited.
That document allowed the DoD to initiate “actions that fall below the ‘use of force’ or a level that causes death, destruction, or significant economic impacts.” Washington Post National security reporter Ellen Nakashima wrote at the time.
The Trump administration then kept the details of this directive a secret from DoD’s designated overseers in Congress for more than a year; Members of the House Armed Services Committee finally got to read it in March 2020.
In 2019, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton confirmed at a meeting organized by wall street journal That the DoD had staged attacks under this directive to counter Russian influence operations ahead of the 2018 midterm election. Journal ofThe Journal’s Warren P. Strobel then reported that in a classified operation called Synthetic Theology, “US Cyber Command jammed servers belonging to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg, Russia, troll farm.”
NSPM-13 replaced a policy developed under the Obama administration that required presidential approval for such operations. In situations such as Russian hacking operations against Democratic Party offices and individuals prior to the 2016 election, the White House’s decision-making process did not seem to be very swift or definitive.
Smalley’s report for Cyberscope cited a source comparing Trump policy to the expected executive-branch authority over traditional military operations.
“If you’re not at war, the commander should check with the White House and the president,” she quoted the source as saying. “The White House as usual should take control. that’s how it works. This is how it works in most other countries.”