President Trump made it easier for the United States military to launch cyberattacks this week by reversing an Obama-era rule that required “an elaborate interagency process” prior to any such attacks, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump signed the order Wednesday reversing what is known as Presidential Policy Directive 20 (PPD-20), which President Obama signed in 2012. The directive required several layers of interagency sign-off, from parties such as the State Department and the intelligence community, before the military could launch a cyberattack. Rescinding the rule amounts to an “offensive step forward,” one administration official told the WSJ.
As designed, PPD-20 required U.S. agencies to gain approval for offensive operations from an array of stakeholders across the federal government, in part to avoid interfering with existing operations such as digital espionage.
Critics for years have seen Presidential Policy Directive 20 as a particular source of inertia, arguing that it handicaps or prevents important operations by involving too many federal agencies in potential attack plans.
With the rule in place, agencies had to coordinate prior to a cyberattack. In some cases, that created a slow-moving process that frustrated the Pentagon. But, as Politico describes, it could also prevent agencies from stepping on each other’s toes.
The intelligence community has also balked at some military operations, especially ones that risk exposing the eavesdropping software that U.S. spies spend years developing and planting in enemy networks.
It’s unclear what, if anything, will replace PPD-20, but what’s obvious is that revoking the rule fits a pattern for Trump, who’s always happy to give more power to the military.