An International Response to Cyberwar • The Anti-Keystone Crowd’s Bogus Claims

Cybersecurity requires cooperation between the U.S. and China

Although the word China doesn’t appear in the title of the “Administration Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets,” the plan the White House introduced on Feb. 20, it’s written between the lines in bold type. And that’s a good thing: The recent escalation in Chinese cyberattacks against U.S. targets is a threat to American businesses and to the stability of diplomatic relations. It illustrates why the rules of cyberwarfare must evolve from their current state of dangerous ambiguity into something approaching international norms. The Obama administration’s newly assertive stance is a welcome start.

Congress should now pass mandatory cybersecurity standards for companies that operate critical infrastructure, to be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. These standards should be applied in ways that maximize flexibility and harness competitive energy. Many are commonsense, such as requiring employees to change their passwords frequently, restricting new applications, and keeping up with security updates and software patches. Companies in critical fields must continually upgrade their ability to detect intrusions and disclose them to customers when they happen.

An executive order signed by President Obama on Feb. 12 takes steps in the right direction by expanding information sharing between the government and the private sector, bolstering privacy provisions, and ordering the creation of a cybersecurity framework for addressing such risks. The five pronged program rolled out on Feb. 20 builds on that effort. It starts with turning U.S. diplomacy up to 11 on cybertheft with China and other trading partners, including through the use of “trade policy tools” — a veiled reference that could encompass sanctions. And it seeks to promote voluntary best practices by private industry, boost domestic law enforcement, strengthen domestic legislation, and increase public awareness.

As the line blurs between espionage, militant hostility, and outright warfare on the Web, the U.S. also needs to answer hard questions about what actions by potential adversaries it can and cannot tolerate, and work toward creating international norms of acceptable behavior.

A path forward might start with more cooperation on stopping cyberactivities that virtually all states agree are harmful (child pornography and human trafficking, for example). It could move toward a greater exchange of information about threats emanating from criminal groups and terrorists, and eventually arrive at sharing national cyberwar doctrines.

Ultimately, as cyberexpert James Lewis has argued, the goal should be to fully apply international law to cyberspace. Countries such as China and Russia must accept real-world responsibility for any virtual activity, state-sponsored or not, that originates within their borders.

The Environmental Case for Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline

Americans concerned about pollution and climate change have traditionally stood with science, in particular the consensus that greenhouse-gas emissions from human activity are warming the earth and changing the climate. Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, in contrast, seem to deliberately ignore the evidence that the pipeline wouldn’t lead to environmental disaster.

The pipeline would do little to increase greenhouse-gas emissions in North America. It would merely enable Canada to send its crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries via a north-south pipeline rather than rail or ship and allow the U.S. to get more of the 8 million barrels of oil it imports each day from a good neighbor.

Pipeline foes say that by pumping 700,000 barrels of crude a day to the U.S., Keystone would encourage maximum development of the Athabascan oil sands in Alberta, Canada. Extraction of this thick, dirty crude requires heavy equipment to inject steam underground to unearth the liquefied tar. The process is therefore relatively more expensive and higher in carbon emissions than simple drilling for liquid oil. Similar steam-injection processes used to extract oil from deposits in California’s San Joaquin Valley, however, haven’t received the same kind of attention. If these processes are so intolerable, why would the U.S. oppose them in Canada but allow them to proceed at home?

Extraction methods are getting cleaner. By 2015 carbon-capture technology is expected to reduce emissions from Canadian oil sands by as much as 35 percent. Even now, when you look at the entire well-to-wheels life cycle of the oil sands crude, its emissions are at most 20 percent greater than normal, because most of oil’s emissions come from burning the fuel.

Like every sentient being, the project’s foes are worried about the pipeline’s potential to leak oil within the U.S. TransCanada is taking pains to ensure the pipeline is designed for the heavy crude it’s meant to carry and would be safely operated. Even so, we could expect a leak or two a year of more than 2,000 gallons of oil, according to the 2011 environmental impact statement on the project issued by the U.S. Department of State. In most cases, however, such spills are expected to be contained in a small area and easily cleaned.

Blocking the Keystone pipeline wouldn’t save the world from environmental catastrophe — nor would it save the economy, as its supporters have argued. The reason to approve the pipeline is that it would keep Canadian oil flowing to U.S. refineries in the most efficient way, within the bounds of safety. This is reason enough.

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