[ISN] The Problem With Calling Cyber Attacks ‘Terrorism’

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/01/problem-calling-cyber-attacks-terrorism/102309/ By Micah Zenko Council on Foreign Relations January 6, 2015 Yesterday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared on CNN’sState of the Union where he proposed placing North Korea on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Menendez contended that the additional sanctions announced by the White House last week were insufficient, and that “we need to look at putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which would have far more pervasive consequences.” Beyond claiming this would have additional consequences for North Korea, he disagreed with President Obama’s characterization of the alleged Sony hack as “an act of cyber vandalism”: “Vandalism is when you break a window. Terrorism is when you destroy a building. And what happened here is that North Korea landed a virtual bomb on Sony’s parking lot, and ultimately had real consequences to it as a company and to many individuals who work there.” I recently wrote a piece that questioned the wisdom of placing North Korea on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, given that—according to the State Department—the “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.” There is no question that North Korean agents engage in any number of malicious and even violent actions in South Korea and beyond, which might be labeled by some as acts of “terrorism.” However, the U.S. Secretary of State, who is empowered under the 1979 legislation to determine which countries should be included on the list, concluded that North Korea should not be on the list, and, in fact, the Bush administration removed the country in 2008. Moreover, just as removing North Korea from the list did not open up the country to U.S. exports given the multitude of overlapping sanctions and restrictions, placing them back on it will not have any demonstrable impact. […]