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Obama worried about effects of waging cyber war in Syria

The Pentagon and the NSA considered orchestrating cyberattacks to diminish the Syrian military’s ability to launch devastating airstrikes such as this one Monday in Aleppo.
The Pentagon and the NSA considered orchestrating cyberattacks to diminish the Syrian military’s ability to launch devastating airstrikes such as this one Monday in Aleppo.KHALED KHATIBKHALED KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON — Not long after the uprising in Syria turned bloody late in the spring of 2011, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency developed a battle plan that featured a sophisticated cyberattack on the Syrian military and President Bashar Assad’s command structure.

The military’s ability to launch airstrikes was a particular target, along with missile production facilities. “It would essentially turn the lights out for Assad,” said one former official familiar with the planning.

For President Obama, who has been adamantly opposed to direct US intervention in a worsening crisis in Syria, such methods would seem to be an obvious, low-cost, low-casualty alternative. But after briefings on variants of the plans, most of which are part of traditional strikes as well, he has so far turned them down.

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