IR INSIDER

Powered by IR Society at NYU

IR Insider is a production of NYU's International Relations Society. Our goal is to explain and discuss issues in IR in an engaging and thought-provoking fashion. We are written by students, for students, about issues students care about. 

President Trump Unveils New Cyber Security Strategy

On Thursday, the Trump administration announced it was ending a classified Obama-era memorandum that determines when the U.S. government can use “offensive cyber operations” against its enemies.

National Security Advisor, John Bolton confirmed the move during a press briefing where he explained that the old rules had been replaced with the intention of empowering the Department of Defence with greater flexibility to launch offensive cyber strikes without needing to vet those decisions through an elaborate internal process.

John Bolton speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 2, 2018. (Zach Gibson / Bloomberg)

John Bolton speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 2, 2018. (Zach Gibson / Bloomberg)


“Our presidential directive effectively reversed those restraints, effectively enabling offensive cyber operations through the relevant departments,” Mr. Bolton said. “Our hands are not tied as they were in the Obama administration.”

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Bolton didn’t provide specifics about what was to be included in the new set of rules–which would remain classified like Obama’s–though he did describe them as “very different.” Trump’s directive is to be called National Security Presidential Memorandum 13.

The new directive was acknowledged when the White House unveiled its new national cybersecurity strategy on Thursday. This comes as a part of an attempt to establish a government wide approach to defend U.S. computer networks and critical infrastructure from hackers.

However, the move is not meant to promote greater use of offensive cyber weapons. Instead, it is meant to “create structures of deterrence” and show others the potential consequences of attacking the U.S. with cyber warfare.

According to The Washington Post, the 40-page document draws mostly from old administrations. But by creating a new memorandum, the Trump administration can argue that it is serious about deterring cyber aggression from Russia amid criticism from lawmakers and cybersecurity experts who claim that the White House hasn’t done enough on the issue.