The major participants in the Cuban Missile Crisis were in many ways driven by intelligence information to make the decisions upon which the crisis centered. The Soviet Union and its puppet nation Cuba relied on the heavy detail they received from their own agencies and believed that as a result of the failure and humiliation of the U.S. during the infamous Bay of Pigs incident that America would be blind at worst to its nuclear build up in Cuba and impotent at best. "At the time of the crisis, the United States possessed many more weapons than the Soviet Union, and thus had a military advantage. Khrushchev had formulated the plan...when he was searching for a place to install nuclear warheads that could not be detected by the U.S. early warning system..." ("Cuban Missile Crisis," 2002, p. 18) Simultaneously, the Americans both feared the Soviets and resented the clear violation of the nation's stated policy commonly known as The Monroe Doctrine which had initially intended to warn European powers from establishing colonies in the Western hemisphere.
The United States gathered intelligence information from U-2 spy planes which conducted reconnaissance flights over Soviet controlled Cuba and identified the construction of short and medium ranged missile silos that could be used for nuclear weapons. Tragically, the United States had failed for nearly two years to correctly identify the build up taking place so close to its own borders. But, it wasn't simply a matter of not knowing about the silos, it was a matter of not being willing to know. President Kennedy refused to know what many in the intelligence agency and in the larger world understood - the Soviets were building missile silos close to the United States. "Only when the CIA was able to deliver a picture to Kennedy was he ready to believe what everyone else knew." (Kaplan, 2002, p. 12) As a result, there were very few options left open to the American government once Kennedy had seen the photos. As a result of the information, the United States blockaded Cuba and refused to let any Soviet vessel near the island.
The blockade brought the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. To a critical stage. On the one hand, the Soviets scrambled to gather information about American strength in the region, American will to strike against the Soviets without sufficient provocation and to determine what other actions the communist empire could take. Conversely, the U.S. had to use intelligence gathering capabilities to assess the strength of the Russian fleet headed toward Cuba, to assemble information regarding the nature and readiness of the silos as well as determine what other threats were already installed on the Cuban isle.
The failure of both the Soviets and the Americans to know more information in advance of the crisis should be a significant model from which nations can learn. However, many of the lessons that were taught during the Cuban Missile Crisis were not learned as is evidenced by the failure of U.S. intelligence to predict or prepare for the attacks on 9/11/01. That lack of intelligence gathering capability was further demonstrated by the buildup to the U.S. war in Iraq in 2003 under the auspices of regime change due to the assumed possession of WMD by Saddam Hussein. But these examples are merely two of the most recent examples of the failure of intelligence agencies to accurately gather key information and provide that information with reliability to officials in government. In addition, these failures were not simply those of the United States but with respect to the attacks on 9/11 and the absence of WMD, many of the world's foremost intelligence agencies were similarly inadequate to the job of assessing the conditions that were presenting themselves. Therefore, it may be that the lessons that should be learned from an event of this nature are simply un-learnable and nations will be forced to repeat the tragedies that have occurred so often in the past.
4. How does cyber warfare threaten U.S. Homeland Security, and can it be countered effectively without an unacceptable sacrifice of U.S. civil liberties?
It is difficult to believe that the government could exercise such precision at countering cyber attacks against the United States and its interests that civil liberties would be completely spared. In fact, such a massive organization as the U.S. government appears virtually incapable of acting with the care and concern over personal freedoms that are of such importance to its people when the security of the nation is in question. Therefore, understanding the impact of cyber warfare on the responsibilities the U.S. Justice Department almost certainly foreshadows at least a temporary loss of some freedoms. The question then centers on the issue of the word "unacceptable" and what that implies with respect to combating cyber warfare and yet, there is at least a modicum of liberty that must be safeguarded if the nation is to preserve its most important precepts. Analyzing an example of a cyber warfare threat will help to answer the question regarding how homeland security can be safeguarded while at the same preserving at least a minimum level of civil liberties.
A sample scenario of cyber warfare involves an attack to personal and corporate computers that utilizes a hazardous virus designed to cause loss of service and to impact financial institutions and general productivity. An attack of this nature has happened on a smaller scale that has impacted individual companies or has attacked large groups of Internet "root servers" not only in the country but in different parts of the world. As a rule, most of these types of attacks are the work of disgruntled workers, miscreants and various delinquents. However, the fact that these types of individuals could carry out an attack that would impact millions of people simply underscores the serious nature of the threat posed by cyber warfare.
The threats presented by cyber warfare have a scale that is almost unimaginable. Virtually every aspect of the nation's security, finances, power grid and almost every other critical function are vulnerable to cyber attack. It is therefore reasonable to assume that terrorists would focus considerable energy on attacking one or more of these functions through the release of a virus or some other digital parasite that is capable of either causing massive failure or irreparable damage.
Combating threats posed by terrorist organizations that have designs on damaging the computer infrastructure and capability of the U.S. necessarily encroaches on the individual freedoms that most Americans deem as inseparable from their personal identity. One such action taken by the government to prevent cyber warfare attacks involves the monitoring of specific websites that adhere to anti-American ideology. This monitoring involves tracking names and statements made by members of such sites and evaluating whether such activity poses a potential threat. Similar actions could be taken by the government to essentially create "sting" websites that would voice anti-American rhetoric and track individuals who join to determine if they have detrimental plans in mind for the United States or its citizenry.
Again, the question that naturally occurs from an examination of such governmental activities is one of "acceptability." Whether or not an action restricts the freedom of association and the right to free speech because those associations and speech are monitored is a question about which intelligent people could disagree. Thus, the action taken by the government once in possession of the information that results from monitoring is perhaps a better measure of the "acceptability" of monitoring or "sting" actions.
Cuban Missile Crisis. (2002). Cuban Missile Crisis. Politics & World Affairs: Cold War, 18.
In Defense of Civil Liberties (2004, September 20). The New York Times, p. A24.
Kaplan, Morton A. (2002). Intelligence Failures. World & I, 17, 12.
U.S. Has "No Objections" to China's Nuclear Buildup (2001). The New American, 17, 13.