Last week we reported on Flame, the latest, most sophisticated cyber attack to hit Iran, reportedly spying on the development of its nuclear weapons program.
As the Middle East placed the blame on Israel and the United States for deploying the malware, Israel was the first to jump in with what some saw as a shoddy attempt to deny the claims.
But tensions continue to remain high this week, with everyone from Israeli defense officials to US senators adding to the heat following Flame.
In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Wednesday that the country is beefing up its efforts and defenses in cyber space, further mounting speculations that the nation was capable of carrying out such an attack.
“Israel is working to be a world leader in cyber capabilities – in the defense establishment and in the civil sector,” said Barak at a Tel Aviv conference on cybersecurity, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Back in Washington, defense officials were staying mum on the issue. But a story published by The New York Times, which provided distinct details in crediting the US with Flame and previous Iranian cyber attack Stuxnet, has had members of Congress raising the red flag over what they believe is a serious leak of classified information.
“Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings… was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory… He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons – even under the most careful and limited circumstances – could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks,” the Times reported in the article.
And it’s justification that is needed, according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who criticized members of the Obama administration for being “grossly irresponsible” in exposing “some of the most highly classified programs involving the most important national security priorities.”
“Laws have been broken,” McCain said in a statement, calling for the formation of a special counsel to investigate what he deemed a political move to enhance President Obama’s reelection campaign. “This is not a game. This is far more important than mere politics… and those officials who are found to be responsible, where appropriate, should be prosecuted.”
But Obama struck back early Friday, defending his administration against the allegations.
“The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive,” Obama said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “If we can root out folks who have leaked, they will suffer consequences.”
The New York Times has stood by its reporting on the matter, telling Politico in a statement, “Our job is to report issues in the public interest, and this piece certainly meets that standard.”