Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said on Wednesday that the military has a legal framework in place in the event of any offensive actions it would deem necessary in cyberspace. Essentially, Kehler declared that cyber war would be waged no differently from any other kind of war or military action and as such would be bound by the same framework as the rest of the military with no special caveats.
“When warranted, we will respond to hostile attacks in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country,” the Pentagon said in a report mandated by Congress.
“We reserve the right to use all necessary means – diplomatic, informational, military and economic – to defend our nation, our allies, our partners and our interests.”
Kehler, in Wednesday’s teleconference, equated offensive action in cyberspace with operations on the ground, air, sea and space in that any offensive action would be carried out under orders of the president as commander-in-chief.
U.S. Cyber Command, a sub-command of Strategic Command, has only been in existence about a year and a half and as recently as a month ago was saying that it was unclear exactly what kind of powers and mandate it had.
Kehler also said that the rules in place only govern countries with whom the U.S. is engaged in other hostilities. The rules for engaging other countries in other situations (like the kind that would come up in cyberwar and cyberespionage scenarios) are still being ironed out.