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Israeli Officials Dispute Claims of Stuxnet's Joint US/Israel Effort

Terry Zink

A few weeks ago, the New York Times published an article saying that the Stuxnet worm, which infected a large number of Iran's nuclear power plants, was a joint effort between the United States and Israel. The program began under former president George W. Bush and continued under President Obama.

Last month, the Washington Post ran an article saying that the US and Israel collaborated in a joint effort to develop Flame and that work included Stuxnet.

But last month, on Breitbart.com, writer Joel Pollack says that Israeli officials are denying that claim. Rather than a leak that put Israel at risk because of mismanagement of national security information (i.e., revealing that the US was responsible with oops… Israel, too!), they say that Israeli intelligence first started developing the cyber weapon and had to convince the US to join in, and with some difficulty. The reason that president Obama is claiming credit for Stuxnet is to boost his re-election chances. From the article:

The source for the new claim is Yossi Melman, a journalist for Israel's left-wing Ha'aretz daily (via Israel Matzav):

The Israeli officials actually told me a different version. They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran's nuclear intentions. And only later they managed to convince the USA to consider a joint operation — which, at the time, was unheard of. Even friendly nations are hesitant to share their technological and intelligence resources against a common enemy…

Yet my Israeli sources understand the sensitivity and the timing of the issue and are not going to be dragged into a battle over taking credit. "We know that it is the presidential election season," one Israeli added, "and don't want to spoil the party for President Obama and his officials, who shared in a twisted and manipulated way some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of the success of cyberwar."

This is a different spin on things but it's difficult to say which one is correct. It is true that all politicians will say things (or not say things) in order to boost their re-election chances. But based upon what I have read from Richard Clarke, former head of US Counter-Terrorism, his belief was that it was made in the US because it has (had) all sorts of controls in place to prevent it from doing collateral damage and that was most likely done at the insistence of lawyers, and he knows all about the culture of lawyers.

Whichever version is correct — either the US or Israel took the lead — what we know for sure is that state sponsored cyber weapons are a reality. Stuxnet (and Flame) have both changed the world. How many pieces of software can say that?

By Terry Zink, Program Manager. More blog posts from Terry Zink can also be read here.

Related topics: Cyberattack, Malware, Security

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