‘And ye shall hear of red lines and rumors of red lines.” Not quite as captivating as the original “rumors of war” found in the New Testament but perhaps more appropriate to the national security arena of the 21st century. In a world of Stuxnet, hackers, cyber terrorism, and organized crime, an increasingly important question for policymakers becomes: Where does a nation establish the threshold, or “red line,” to determine when a cyber attack warrants a conventional response?
This month’s homeland security spotlight leads off by addressing that question. Army Lieutenant Colonel John Mowchan believes the United States is better served by not setting thresholds for response. Maintaining ambiguity, he says, gives U.S. officials greater flexibility and keeps potential enemies guessing. He also cautions that, because the lines between various threat sources have increasingly blurred, deciding on the right response has become more problematic.