Trump Reverses Obama-Era Rules On Cyberattacks

The Trump administration on Wednesday rolled back a series of Obama-era rules meant to regulate and coordinate how the United States engages in cyberattacks, portraying the rules as unnecessarily restrictive.

The confidential Obama rules, referred to as “Presidential Policy Directive 20,” set in place processes for approval before any one government agency could launch a cyberattack.

“If you don’t have good coordination mechanisms, you could end up having an operation wreck a carefully crafted multiyear espionage operation to gain access to a foreign computer system,” Michael Daniel, Obama’s White House cybersecurity coordinator, explained to the Wall Street Journal.

A copy of the Obama directive, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by The Guardian in 2013, also explicitly prevented the government from engaging in domestic cyber operations except in cases of emergency.  

It’s unclear what new rules, if any, the Trump administration has implemented instead, but a former senior U.S. official expressed concern to the Journal the new rules might now permit domestic activities.

Trump officials contend Directive 20 was more of an impediment than a useful framework for interagency communication, a stance that could signal an increase in the U.S. engaging in such attacks moving forward.

Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton was reportedly a driving force behind the decision.

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