President Obama Threw A Cyberwar…. And No One Showed Up
from the firing-off-a-blank-check-from-the-'Executive-Order'-account dept
In April 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13694 declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat of hostile cyber activity against the United States.
But six months later, the emergency powers that he invoked to punish offenders had still not been used because no qualifying targets were identified, according to a newly released Treasury Department report.
It certainly sounded scary enough. Obama said things about “cyber threats” being a serious threat to national security and the US economy. The state of emergency, according to the President, would create a “targeted tool” for combating our cyber-enemies.
This state of emergency is just one more in a line of uninterrupted states of emergencies dating back to the mid-1970s. A perpetual state of emergency is far more useful to the government than a “targeted tool,” so a declaration of (cyber) war against a bunch of noncombatants still served a purpose, if only indirectly.
It started the ball rolling on the CISPA/CISA resurgence, which eventually “passed” after being attached to the coattails of a budget bill with far more momentum and support, as few legislators were willing to stare down the barrel of a government shutdown just to prevent a badly-written cyber-bill from passing.
More importantly, the president’s statement and executive order gave the administration permission to do things it doesn’t normally get to do.
Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the President may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.
Declaring a state of emergency allows for the potential wreaking of havoc in taxpayers’ lives. And even if these powers go unexercised (or anything), it still costs the taxpayers money.
Even though it generated no policy outputs, implementation of the executive order nevertheless incurred costs of “approximately $760,000, most of which represent wage and salary costs for federal personnel,” the Treasury report said.
The expenses of national states of emergency aren’t being offset by seized funds or assets related to the targets of the executive order. The Treasury Department’s report logically notes that zero targets means zero seizures. According to another report quoted by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, the long-running “state of emergency” prompted by various North Korean actions is resulting in less than ~$60,000 a year — compared to an operational cost of at least $125,000/month (presumably the North Korean state of emergency is more expensive than the “cyberwar” one). No one really expects a “break even” government, but it’s inarguable that targeting known or unknown entities via executive orders really isn’t doing much to cripple their operations.