From the Virtual to the Kinetic?

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Needle_Point, Mar 13, 2012.

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  1. Interesting point from the ever readable Sir Humphrey.

    Thin Pinstriped Line: At what point do IT geeks become legitimate military targets?

    If the virtual is becoming part of national security strategy, at what point does it become lawful to target the geeks for their virtual activities.

    I think Sir Humphrey is thinking of ops outside Counter-terror (we've already killed AQ personnel who are web-masters and ideologues with taking out Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen), but on the more general question.

    Kill/Capture missions against Internet Cafes?
  2. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    The question he poses about the students in an internet cafe - if they are engaged in an act of aggression against you for military purposes but are not in the military then can they be classed as franc tireurs and shot? If so, they're legitimate targets.
  3. Cold_Collation

    Cold_Collation LE Book Reviewer

    But turn that round another way: if a civilian working for the MOD was shot on the streets of London/somewhere abroad, it'd like as not be classed as an assassination/act of terror. Can we continue to class what, say, the CIA does in Pakistan as legitimate acts of war and then cry foul if something similar happens here?

    There's already precedent: the targeting of factories and other strategic assets by the RAF and USAAF in WWII. Those facilities were very definitely manned by large numbers of civilians and the justification used to be that that was what happens in 'total war'. We're no longer a nation under seige but are we 'at war'? Certainly some of those we're up against consider us to be. The perceptions here in the UK among the general populace, however, are that the British armed forces are involved in some unpleasantness a long way away but that we're at peace.

    Without being alarmist, how do you address that? How does the modern government tell the populace that being a civilian is no longer something of a guarantee of protection? The 'War' on Terror is just a pat moniker; it has no real substance and public opinion reflects that.

    On the other hand, would a more strident take on this (put aside for a moment offending a particular ethnic or religious group and how unpalatable that might be to modern politicians) actually help to get public opinion behind a more, shall we say, bullish and effective solution to the conflict(s) we're currently engaged in?
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  4. I don’t think being a civilian, or a civilian organisation, confers any automatic immunity from attack.

    Thinking about the ‘traditional’ state v state war, here in the UK the two largest agencies responsible for acquiring foreign intelligence (SIS and GCHQ) are largely civilian organisations under FCO, with only JARIC being a military asset under MOD, but I don’t think anyone would argue that Vauxhall Cross and Cheltenham are not legitimate targets. In the same way a civilian power station in Confusistan may be an entirely legitimate target – if the electricity was being generated for military purposes and attacking the power station was necessary, proportional, etc. Where you can’t go are targets that are purely civil in function – the WW2 justification of ‘dehousing the German working class’ would never get past the lawyers these days.

    As for the little group of geeks in their cyber cafe in less than traditional warfare, I think you would end up asking a series of questions (or being asked them by lawyers and politicians), which could go something like this –

    Are they actually capable of attacking UK/UK interests?

    What damage are they capable of inflicting?

    Can we stop them by non-kinetic means?

    What is the minimum force required to neutralise them?

    What will be the collateral damage?

    If the only way to stop them is kinetic, and the kinetic force is proportional to the threat and desired effect, and the predicted collateral damage can be justified, then why not?

    But I am not a lawyer and it's a few years since I had any exposure to this sort of stuff.

    My only other comment is that creating a ‘J10’ wouldn’t get my vote, rather make ‘cyber’ in all its manifestations mainstream business.
  5. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    And of course, we all know that should a civilian involved in IT etc and considered to be working against this country's interests be taken out, the person who carried out the attack for this country would be totally supported by the Government who sent him if the international lawyers went after him/her.

    Or not!
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  6. When the student hackers cost lives, say they take down the power grid and people end up deaded, that's a de facto act of war IMO.
    OK, the legal eagles with tie themselves up in knots about it and the ramifications of collateral damage and all that, but Farouks Internetz Cafe just got passed to the Targeting Cell.
  7. Cold_Collation

    Cold_Collation LE Book Reviewer


    Not so much immunity from attack - PIRA/INLA and the like were very good at proving that once over - so much as the perceptions of immunity, then.

    There's a lot of propaganda value in 'civilian' casualties and I can certainly perceive in press reporting that military personnel are somehow fairer game than civilians (a personal perception, I admit, but I'd be interested to see others' opinions).

    I'd hate in real life to see it happen, but I'm also intrigued as to what the media and political reaction might be to 'civilians' in this country being targeted because of their specific/strategic roles.

  8. TheIronDuke

    TheIronDuke LE Book Reviewer

    Remind me not to zip myself naked into a sports bag then padlock it from the outside then leave myself on a bathroom floor while you are around?

    If you feel the only way to stop the threat is to go around getting 'kinetic' on peoples arse, on you go. Give scrip kiddies the 'good news'. Meanwhile China will pour resources into scrip kiddies. Just about every tech weapon we have on the boil has gone over budget. This is in part due to **** companies who are well connected to the guys who sign the cheques.

    But it is equally down to an invisible 'war' between Chinese hackers and geeks at BEa, Lockheed Martin et al.

    Personally, I feel we should pour resources into the scrip kiddy side of the street. And move GCHQ to somewhere nice. Like Sunderland.
  9. terroratthepicnic

    terroratthepicnic LE Reviewer Book Reviewer
    1. ARRSE Runners

    If a geek who creates a Trojan that takes down the power grid causing the death of others, can become a credible target - as the trojan would be a weapon - wouldn't the civilian staff who build the componants of our missiles become a credible targets of our enemies?
  10. It geeks causing loss of morale and disrupting military effectiveness?

    Full spectrum attack on Glasgow is authorised you know it makes sense :)
  11. Might not be a good idea even if I wasn't around ...

    The point I was making was that if there is no other alternative (cyber 'counter measures', action by local law enforcement, whatever) then the happy band in the cyber cafe are not automatically immune from kinetic attack because they are civilians; if it came over as my regarding 'getting kinetic on peoples' arses' as the default setting, then I obviously phrased it badly.
  12. I think it depends which 'enemies' you're talking about - if the enemy operates in accordance with international law then there would at least be a debate about whether MBDA are legitimate, if the enemy disregards international law then all bets are off.
    We hear lots about asymmetric warfare, part of that is an asymmetry of legal (and even moral) codes.
  13. I think the moral aspect would pretty much disappear the moment it became convenient to attack civvy hackers, just the same way most of our other attempts to seize a moral high ground do. The bigger question is how practical an option would it be?

    The internet doesn't adhere to international borders (with the possible exception of DPRK) and commercial ISPs will sell server time to anyone anywhere. Target identification will be a bitch because the point of origin will be unbelievably hard to identify.

    If it's been sent from my HTC Sensation using Tapatalk then I'm probably pissed.