The term Information Warfare may not be the best one to
use. It is largely a product of the military and of a military mindset.
There is a danger that in using their language and their conceptual frameworks,
critical work will adopt their way of thinking as a paradigm. Unfortunately,
as there have not been many critical analyses of Information Warfare, there
are not many critical or oppositional terms that have been suggested instead.
Until a better term appears, Information Warfare will remain. Postmodern
Warfare has been suggested as an alternative, but this still may not represent
the subject. (Gray forthcoming)
A common theme that runs through the Information Warfare
literature is that there are no standardized defining characteristics.
John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists stated in an interview
that Information Warfare definitions vary depending on the perspectives
of people looking at the issue. (Pike 1996) Information Warfare interests
the military, the intelligence community, business, and the computer industry,
but in different ways. Top brass at the Pentagon, for example, may be inclined
to conceive of Information Warfare in terms of electronic battlefield management.
While America’s corporate executives will place more emphasis on survivability
of data and the threat posed by hackers to financial assets. The London
Times reported that “cyber terrorists” had amassed 400 million pounds from
financial institutions in London as ransom to prevent hacking into their
computer systems. (London Times 1996)
A point of agreement among developers of Information Warfare
doctrine is that it has both offensive and defensive properties, meaning
that a nation, a corporation, a public institution, or even an individual
can engage in Information Warfare from a defensive guarded posture or from
an offensive platform of attack. (Evers 1996) The United States’ “war”
against Iraq in 1991 is an example of a nation adopting an offensive Information
Warfare position. (Campen 1992) While an individual scanning a disk for
viruses is an example of a defensive stance.
These two examples illustrate the range of possibilities
that fall under this broad category of Information Warfare. On one end
of the spectrum is the Gulf War, an extremely complex form of Information
Warfare with significant global consequences still felt today, such as
illnesses attributed to the Gulf War syndrome. On the other end of spectrum
is a simple, almost routine, computer task. The offensive act involves
the manipulation of information systems – in the case of the Gulf War,
satellites, computers, telecommunication infrastructures, and guided weapons
– to gain dominance over an adversary. The defensive act in this example
involves the use of computer software to prevent the corruption of files,
to prevent the invasion of ones cyber territory.
Information Warfare is concerned with both attaining and
maintaining dominance over an adversary and with resisting and fighting
against the advances of an enemy. The common factor linking both offensive
and defensive Information Warfare is the dependence on microprocessor-based
communication and information systems.
This polarity of offensive and defensive Information Warfare
is similar to the notion of the dialectic of control raised in the last
chapter. The difference is that the conceptualization of defensive and
offensive Information Warfare has been made by people with military and
corporate points-of-view. While the conceptualization of the dialectic
of control has been made by critical scholars and radicals. From military
corporate viewpoints, surveillance of international email communication
is defensive Information Warfare. (Swett 1995) It can be construed, for
example, as part of the State’s ongoing quest against international terrorism.
But from the critical perspective of this thesis, this type of monitoring
is offensive Information Warfare against people’s freedom to communicate,
a form of domination and control through technical means.
It is around this question of who is friend and who is
foe, around what is defensive versus what is offensive, that the disjuncture
between military corporate conceptions of Information Warfare and critical
perspectives on Information Warfare becomes apparent. This disjuncture
is a good example why it is dangerous to adopt military corporate terminology
and definitions. In the case of Mexico, the United States may believe that
it is defending Mexican national security interests when it helps that
government militarily against guerrilla groups or drug traffickers. But
from the perspective of the Zapatistas, U.S. technological military assistance
is an offensive move on the part of the United States and Mexico. What
is perceived by one group as defensive Information Warfare is perceived
as offensive by another. Those who are called terrorists by some are called
freedom fighters by others. This is where Information Warfare is exposed
for its ideological dimensions. Who is friend or foe? Who is ally or enemy?
Who is a worthy or an unworthy victim? The understandings of friend, ally,
and worthy victim in this country are bound up in the ideology of the ruling
elites, as has been discussed in Manufacturing Consent. (Herman and Chomsky
1988) The developers of Information Warfare doctrine clearly represent
this ruling elite ideology and as such their conceptions about defensive
and offensive Information Warfare will be designed to serve and protect
status quo elite interests. The point of mentioning all this is to affirm
the necessity of not getting confused or thrown off track by military and
corporate perspectives embedded in the dominant discourse around Information
The next section is a overview of the antecedents to Information
Warfare. This is followed by a section that surveys varied definitions
of Information Warfare. After this is a brief description of key technologies
that enable Information Warfare capability. Finally, the last section returns
to critical approaches to Information Warfare.
ANTECEDENTS TO INFORMATION WARFARE
Military Importance of Communication
and Information Technology
The importance of communication to success in warfare
probably can be traced back to early pre-agrarian conflicts in which information
about the physical location and size of an adversarial force was transmitted
by a system of scouts and runners. This non-real-time type of communication
persisted in a variety of forms until the invention of the telegraph in
1840. Until then, news from a military front had to reach a military command
post via foot, horse, or boat. Commands and directives returning to the
front had to be transmitted in the same way. Table 2 lists a chronology
of the development of U.S. military communication that begins shortly before
the invention of the telegraph and continues through the inventions of
the telephone, radio, sonar, radar, and satellite.
The telegraph is an important milestone in the history
of communication and war. From that moment forth the time required for
communication between command centers and battlefields was greatly reduced.
As the telegraph transmitted a coded message along wire, the limitations
were proscribed by how far the wires went in to the battlefield and the
capabilities of intermediaries who interpreted the code. The telegraph
became an important communication tool during the U.S.-Mexico war (1846-1848)
and U.S. Civil War. The invention of the telephone in 1875, thirty five
years after the telegraph, made direct voice-to-voice communication possible.
Again the limitation was the extent of the wired infrastructure, one that
was susceptible to attack and destruction. Telegraph and telephone systems
were used by the U.S. military during the Spanish-American war beginning
After the telegraph and telephone, the use of radio in
warfare was the next big event in the history of communication and war.
The first wireless communication occurred just outside of Bologna, Italy
in 1895. Soon after that the U.S. Navy began installing radios on its warships
and along coastal areas. Radio eliminated the need for wired lines and
meant that communication could be much more dispersed. But also it meant
that anyone with a receiver could intercept the transmissions. Encryption
was needed; information security became important. Both wired and wireless
communication systems were used during World War I. In the inter-war period
between the First and Second World Wars both sonar and radar were developed.
Sonar was used by the Navy in 1922 and in 1937 the Navy began installing
radar systems on their warships.
Chronology of Military Communication
|1776. American warships adopted standardized set of signals.
1797. U.S. Navy published first American book of signals.
1802. Navy issued Barron Signal Book..
1807. Steamboat introduction expedited Army’s ability
1840. Telegraph invented.
1843. Morse Code developed.
1843. Congress authorized $30,000 for Washington-Baltimore
1847. Navy published Rogers and Black Semaphore Directory.
1861. Signal school started at outbreak of Civil War
at Fortress Monroe, Virginia.
1861. First demonstration of telegraph line attached
1862. Confederate States Army Signal Corps established.
1862. First successful transmission of telegraph from
balloons in Civil War.
1863. Union Signal Corps established.
1863. Thirty telegraph trains in use by Union in Civil
1867. Signal Corps gained control of all Army’s telegraph
1875. Telephone invented by Alexander G. Bell.
1880. Signal Corps operated 5,000 miles of telegraph
1895. First wireless signals communicated near Bologna,
1897. First ship-to-shore wireless transmission from
1898. Army Signal Corps provides telegraph and telephone
in Spanish-American War.
1899. Wireless message transmitted over English Channel.
1899. French Navy installed radio equipment on a gunboat.
1899. U.S. Army Signal Corps established radio communications
over 12 miles.
1900. First radio transmission and reception of speech.
1900. Signal Corps assigned responsibility of communications
in Alaska territory.
1902. U.S. Navy constructed radio stations in Annapolis
1902. Navy established Wireless Telegraph Board.
1903. Hundred mile radio link incorporated into extensive
Alaska wired system.
1903. Navy equipped 8 major ships with radios and established
5 shore stations.
1903. Airplane invented by Wilbur and Orville Wright.
1904. Roosevelt convened Inter-Departmental Board of
1906. Navy published Manual of Wireless Telegraphy for
Use of Naval Electricians.
1906. Signal Corps built first successful portable wireless
1906. Introduction of thermonic triode making radio voice
1907. Aeronautical Division formed within Signal Corps
to utilize airplanes.
1908. Navy established U.S. Navy Radio Laboratory.
1909. First airplane to meet army specifications.
1911. Navy issued first radio frequency plan to bring
order to radio chaos.
1912. Navy ordered the word “radio” replace the word
1912. Utility of radio communication demonstrated in
reporting of Titanic sinking.
1916. Naval Aircraft Radio Laboratory established at
1917. Naval communications system broadcast to world
U.S. had entered WWI.
1918. U.S. production of field wire for WWI reached 8,500
miles per month.
1918. Navy installed first air navigation range.
1920. Post Office Department began building aeronautical
1922. Licensed commercial radio stations jumped from
80 to 569.
1922. Sonar first used by Navy.
1926. Army Air Corps created.
1927. Congress passed the Radio Act to regulate commercial
1929. Army Air Corps conducted “blind” aircraft flight
using navigation instruments.
1930. Naval Research Laboratory issued first report on
experiments with radar.
1934. Usefulness of radio communications on B-10 aircraft
1934. Federal Communications Commission created.
1936. Navy established the Fleet Sonar School at San
Diego to train sonar operators.
1936. Naval Research Laboratory constructed pulse radar
with 25 mile range.
1937. Two radar sets installed aboard USS Leary.
1942. Signal Corps awarded contracts for $2.6 billion
in communication equipment.
1947. Transistor invented in Bell labs.
1954. Air Force installed tropospheric scatter systems.
1954. First commercial transistor radios available.
1957. Soviet launched Sputnik 1 satellite.
1958. U.S. Satellite Signal Communications by Orbiting
Relay Equipment launched.
1959. Signal Corps bounced voice transmissions off the
1960. First experiments using a satellite for communications
with launching of Echo 1.
1960. Defense Communications Agency (DCA) formed.
1962. Telestar 1 satellite launched and broadcast television
1962. First launch of Relay satellite.
1962. Congress passed the Communications Satellite Act.
1963. Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) incorporated.
1963. DCA assumed control of 5 U.S. continental automatic
electric switching centers.
1963. Telestar 2 satellite launched.
1964. Syncom III launched, first to reach geosynchronous
1964. International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium
1964. Defense Communication System’s Automatic Voice
1965. Intelsat 1 launched into geosynchronous orbit for
1965. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program established.
1967. Three Intelsat 2 satellites with 240 voice channels
placed in orbit.
1969. Three Intelsat 3 satellites joined others to provide
global satellite communication.
1971. Intelsat 4 launched with more than 6,000 two-way
1973. DoD Joint Chiefs of Staff responsible for military
1978. Navy’s Fleet Satellite Communication System launched
1979. Air Force Satellite Communication System (AFSATCOM)
1981. Institute for Defense Analysis recommended an improved
WIN and MILNET.a
1983. U.S. invasion of Grenada uses all segments of DoD
1989. U.S. invasion of Panama another operational test
of communications systems.
1991. Operation Desert Storm utilized all types of communications.
a. WIN means World Wide Military Command and Control
System Intercomputer Network and MILNET means Military Network known as
the Defense Data Network.
Computer-based weaponry evolved after World War II. Nuclear
weapons systems of the Cold War began to rely heavily on computers. Computers
provided the military not just with added speed and capability to manage
large amounts of battlefield information, but they became important organizational
tools for the military hierarchy. Because of the sheer size of the military
bureaucracy, computers became indispensable.
Source: (Young 1994)
A military historian, Van Creveld (1985), wrote that “during
the decades after 1945, several factors came together and caused the American
armed forces to undergo an unprecedented process of centralization.” One
was “the revolutionary explosion of electronic communication and automatic
data processing equipment.” The other was “the preoccupation during the
1950s with the need for failproof positive control systems to prevent an
accidental outbreak of nuclear war.”
The first satellite was launched by the Soviets in 1957.
The United States soon followed with its own satellites. In 1960 the Defense
Communications Agency formed to manage U.S. military satellite communications.
In the 1960s satellites became central to military intelligence surveillance
and communications. The nuclear arms race set the stage for the integration
of the most sophisticated communication and information technology with
the entire nuclear weapons system. By the time the Reagan administration
was pumping millions of dollars into the STARWARS initiative in the early
1980s, computers, satellites, and telecommunications systems had become
integral and vital to warfare capability. When the Cold War ended, the
U.S. military needed to do something with all the technology it had amassed.
The invasion of Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, and the Gulf War in 1991
were opportunities to test the sophisticated communications technology
that had been developed during the Cold War. At the same time, each of
these military ventures fostered greater military control over the press,
an industry which alos depends upon electronic information gathering and
As noted increased centralization of U.S. military organization
after World War II was driven by the electronic revolution and by a perceived
nuclear threat during the Cold War. Computers became essential tools, a
necessity for both military and corporate hierarchies. Information processing
became fundamental to all aspects of society, what some called an information
society. But computers were developed chiefly in a military environment.
Military technology and information technology have had a co-dependent,
parallel and symbiotic relationship. Information technology has become
vital to nearly all aspects of military activity. Conversely, military
technology has been the driving force behind the vast majority of information
technologies. Massive government, military, and intelligence expenditures
have subsidized university and corporate research, development, and innovation
in communication and information technologies, thus making these institutions
important arms for military technological development. Taken together,
these institutions form what can be called the military-informational-complex.
In Who Knows: Information in the Age of the Fortune 500,
Schiller (1981) defined the information society, that which has given rise
to the military-informational-complex, in terms of a system that serves
and meets the needs of super-corporations and the military establishment.
What is called the 'information society' is, in fact,
the production, processing, and transmission of a very large amount of
data about all sorts of matters - individual and national, social and commercial,
economic and military. Most of the data are produced to meet very specific
needs of super-corporations, national governmental bureaucracies, and the
military establishments of the advanced industrial state. (Schiller 1981,
Schiller pointed to the symbiotic relationship between transnational
corporations and the military, a relationship in which one would not survive
without the other.
Computer communications and the transborder data flows
they facilitate are now indispensable to the operation and maintenance
of a world economy dominated by TNCs. Yet the ability of American companies
to operate on a global scale and enjoy the benefits of worldwide resources
and market exploitation would be unimaginable without the full backup of
a concentrated military power, ready for instantaneous deployment and intervention.
The alert system for this infrastructure of intervention relies on ‘27
major U.S. military command posts around the world. The computers at these
posts are the brains that tie together the Pentagon's $15 billion network
of satellites, radar stations, sensors, and warning systems.’ (Schiller
But Schiller noted that the role the military and the intelligence
community has played in developing new information technologies has been
hidden or largely unnoticed. This probably would make the notion of the
military-informational-complex a suspect term.
The vital contribution of electronics and computer communications
to U.S. military strength is generally recognized. Less attention has been
paid to the very active role the military has played in developing new
communications technologies. The National Security Agency (NSA), the military
unit engaged in a wide variety of unpublicized electronics operations inside
and outside the country, has been identified as a hidden 'angel' of modern
communication research and development. (Schiller 1981, 106)
Again, directing attention to the information society,
in Communication and Information Technologies: Freedom of Choice for Latin
America?, Mattlelart and Schmucler (1985) stated that information production,
storage, and distribution was “becoming a fundamental element, and is the
objective of the new organizational pattern of the political, economic,
cultural, and military apparatuses in almost all societies.” (Mattlelart
and Schmucler 1985, 4, 5)
This military-informational-complex or military information
society has not been limited to the developed north. Mattlelart and Schmucler
described how in Latin America in the 1980s computers and communications
technologies for systems of control were beginning to be used extensively
by the armed forces and police.
And still, indications of the use of computers in systems
of control and repression are increasing. Police patrol cars in Chile and
Argentina are equipped with computer terminals. Under the military junta,
anyone questioned in the street in Buenos Aires, had to produce a magnetic
identity card which gave instantaneous information of that person's past
history. (Mattlelart and Schmucler 1985, 101)
The term “military information society” can be attributed
to Mosco’s book The Pay-Per Society: Computers and Communication in the
Information Age (1989). He focused specifically on the relationship
between the military and the information society, continuing Schiller’s
argument that military needs have been central to the development of new
communication and information technologies.
Military requirements generally headed the list of government
communication and information priorities. Military expansion required,
as much or even more than transnational business, the creation of sophisticated
information and intelligence gathering and rapid, efficient, and secret
communications networks worldwide. Waging war, whether to stop indigenous
revolutions or to prevail in a nuclear confrontation requires complex computer/communication
technologies and networks. (Mosco 1989, 44)
Mosco countered the idea that the marketplace is where decisions
concerning the creation of new technologies are made, stating that the
military has on numerous occasions intervened directly in the “free” marketplace
to help determine the course of technological development.
The influence of the military on the design, dissemination
and management of technology counters the myth that technology is a product
of private marketplace development. This applies particularly to communication
and information technology. These technologies are in large measure the
product of direct military intervention in the private marketplace. This
intervention has taken many forms including research and development by
the military as well as Pentagon contracts with private companies. (Mosco
Mosco concluded that the links and relationships between
the emergent information society and the military are so close that he
did not see the need to distinguish between them, but rather preferred
to show that what has evolved is the creation of a military information
When one takes into account the technological history,
funding, research, development, and applications of advanced communication
and information technology, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion
that we are moving toward the creation of a military information society,
including the militarization of outer space. (Mosco 1989, 170)
In Communication of Knowledge in an Information Society,
Schiller and Miege (1990) echoed and reaffirmed Mosco’ s thoughts on the
military information society.
Though hardly qualifying for inclusion in any humane
definition of 'society', the military has been, from the outset, the largest
sponsor and user of information technology. The computers developed in
the Second World War, and the first communication satellites, were military
projects. (Schiller and Miege 1990, 162)
In Seeking Security Through Technological Means, Beardon
(1990) also emphasized the relationship of the military to new communication
and information technologies using an interesting biological analogy, suggesting
that as living organisms respond, grow, and adapt to their environments,
so too does technology grow and adapt to its environment. Beardon claimed
the military has been the primary environment in which computers and communication
Just as living organisms grow according to the environment
in which they are raised, so a technology can be understood as a response
to the surroundings in which it develops. For computer technology, these
surroundings have been, and still are, dominated by the military. An examination
of the early history of computing reveals that the first electronic computers
built in the late 1940s and early 1950s were, almost without exception,
destined for military applications. Just about every breakthrough in the
field of computing occurred within a military environment. (Beardon 1990,
As early as 1990 Beardon showed the way toward a future type
of warfare almost completely dependent on microprocessor technology. Moreover,
these new war forms will incorporate artificial intelligence systems that
in some instances will remove people from the battlefield. Computers will
help automate battlefields and enable warfare to be managed from secure
Significant research into the automation of combat situations
is being funded by the DARPA Strategic Computing Initiative, which is developing
the hardware and software to support an autonomous land vehicle, a fighter
pilot's assistant and a battle management system for an aircraft carrier.
The perspective for the future is the fully automated battlefield in which
data from remote sensors is analyzed by computers, appropriate weapons
are selected and aimed by computers, the weapons are fired by computers,
and damage assessment is done by computers. (Beardon 1990, 234)
In addition to the military application of computers, U.S.
intelligence and security agencies are extremely dependent on computer
hardware and software, both for processing internal information about employees,
but more importantly for the information collecting and processing at which
these organizations excel.
Computers are required in all areas of military intelligence
— from keeping track of the location of personnel and supplies, to collating
evidence of enemy ship and troop movements. Whilst the US military have
some of the largest data processing systems in the world for inventory
control and similar applications, the security organizations, like the
National Security Agency and the CIA, operate massive computer databases,
some of which are in foreign countries. The National Security Agency, in
particular, has been described as the largest concentration of computer
equipment in the world. (Beardon 1990, 235)
Taken together, the military and intelligence needs of the
United States government, and the corporate interests which it serves,
have helped to create a global networked system of computers and communications.
The integration of intelligence, surveillance, warning,
decision making and response systems is a massive task that requires sophisticated
computer and communication technology. In the case of the US this integration
is the responsibility of the World Wide Military Command and Control System
(WWMCCS), which is a network of computer systems around the globe. (Beardon
In Electronic Technology, Corporate Strategy, and World Transformation,
Estabrooks (1995) focused attention on the Gulf War and “Operation Desert
Storm,” stating that it demonstrated “beyond any reasonable doubt” how
“technology has transformed all aspects of the art and science of military
warfare, from its weapons systems for battlefield management to its command,
control and communications systems.” Estabrooks wrote that in the last
decade “we have witnessed one of the most remarkable transformations in
military warfare in history.”
The new military defense and weapons systems are truly
artificially intelligent by the standards of the past. Computers and communications
systems dominate every aspect of the new battlefield management environment.
They are essential components of the new tanks, bombers, cruise missiles,
stealth bombers, and helicopter gun-ships. Stealth bombers, for example,
are able to navigate their way into the war theater undetected by conventional
radar systems and consequently do not need the support of the dozens of
protective aircraft that are usually required. This translates into vastly
improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness of military expenditures. Computers
and telecommunications networks are also critical elements of battlefield
simulation and management systems and in navigation systems. Computerized
Airborne Warning and Central Systems (AWACS), for example, and global satellite
positioning systems such as those used during Operation Desert Storm provide
the essential means of navigation and coordinating much of the activity.
Without referencing the terms cyberwar or other new military
terminology, Estabrooks described a near future military scenario that
sounds very much like the visions of Information Warfare proponents.
Military technologists and leading companies in the defense
industry are now working to create a totally electronic and intelligent
military battlefield system to monitor and manage the entire world. Air,
sea, and ground surveillance, defense and combat systems will become completely
integrated and coordinated with one another in the future. Supersmart military
surveillance, communications, and control systems will be capable of automatically
identifying likely targets for destruction, then coordinating the launching
and guidance of hundreds and thousands or smart weapons from the sea, air,
and ground into the battle theater all with minimum human intervention.
The only role that airmen, soldiers, navy crewmen, and military officers
will play in the electronic battlefield of the future will be as observers,
and technical experts stationed in front of their computer screens in hidden,
protected bunkers in locations far removed from the real battle field and
the real action. (Estabrooks 1995, 181)
Some proponents of Information Warfare refer to the information
society as the foundation or bedrock out of which Information Warfare emerged
and developed. (Garigue 1996) During the 1980s transformations in the computer
and telecommunication sectors gave rise to increasingly networked systems.
The information infrastructure built out of fiberoptic, wired, and wireless
networks began to merge with high speed and high volume computer systems.
These technological changes laid the groundwork for what has been described
as a Revolution in Military Affairs, which in turn set the stage for the
development of Information Warfare doctrine and strategy. In A Revolution
in Warfare, Cohen (1996) of John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced
International Studies, wrote that:
The Revolution in Military Affairs
For almost a decade American defense planners have foreseen
an impending revolution in military affairs, sometimes described as the
military-technical revolution. Such a transformation would open the way
for a fundamental reordering of American defense posture. (Cohen 1996)
The Pentagon’s 1995 Annual Report to the President and the
Congress affirmed the universal role of information technologies to the
military mission, and the vulnerabilities of reliance on such technologies,
. . . virtually all DoD activities depend upon reliable
telecommunication and computing support. However, growing DoD dependence
on an unprotected information infrastructure to provide this support creates
vulnerabilities and operation readiness risks. (U.S. Department of Defense
The Gulf War, again, is considered a turning point, a model
of how wars can and will be waged, and an example of this Revolution in
Military Affairs (RMA).
In The Future of “Military Affairs”: Revolution or Evolution?,
Ritcheson (1996) stated:
The Persian Gulf War of 1991 is considered by some to
represent an impending RMA. The pervasive and effective use of stand-off
deep-strike systems, precise conventional munitions, and space-based target-acquisition
systems provided, in the view of some, a glimpse of new high-technology
warfare. (Ritcheson 1996)
In The 21st Century Land Warrior, Roos (1995) showed that
the United States is well on its way toward integrating microprocessor-based
information technology with its armed forces, even on the level of the
foot soldier. Roos wrote about demonstrations conducted in April of 1994
at the Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in which
“digitized soldiers” were conducting maneuvers in a “digitized battlefield.”
Nearly all the individual soldier modernization activities
now under way – from high-resolution helmet-mounted displays to close-in
mine detection and night-fighting capabilities – are aimed at fielding
a fighting force in which no soldier is an isolated element. Thanks to
electronic linkages, all members of a fighting force will share a common
picture of battlefield events as they unfold. At the most basic level,
soldiers will be transformed from reactive information receivers to proactive
battlefield sensors. (Roos 1995)
In America’s Information Edge, Nye and Owens (1996) discussed
shifts in post Cold War military policy and organization needed in order
for the United States to stay abreast of sweeping changes stemming from
the information revolution. The authors contended that “knowledge,
more than ever before, is power.” Making an analogy to the term “comparative
advantage” they referred to America’s “information advantage” and wrote
that “the United States must adjust its defense and foreign policy strategy
to reflect its growing comparative advantage in information resources.”
They reconceptualized conventional containment theory to produce concepts
such as “soft power” referring to the present ability of the United States
to “use its information resources to engage China, Russia, and other powerful
states in security dialogues to prevent them from becoming hostile.” Finally,
they suggested “a revolution in military affairs,” enabled by the confluence
of ISR (intelligence collection, surveillance, and reconnaissance), C4I
(command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) and precision
force (satellite guided weaponry). Together it is a “system of systems
that represents a qualitative change in U.S. military capabilities.”
Information Warfare is part of a technical evolution and
transformation that has recent roots, but that is also part of a longer
continuum of the application of communication and information technologies
AN OVERVIEW OF INFORMATION WARFARE
The term “Information Warfare” has only been coined in
the past few years. 1995 was the year when the phrase made it into popular
usage. In Onward Cyber Soldier, TIME journalist Waller (1995) concluded
that Information Warfare is “now the hottest concept in the halls of the
Pentagon” and said that since the Gulf War Information Warfare strategies
and techniques have increased in usage:
In the first day of the Persian Gulf War, Air Force stealth
planes armed with precision-guided munitions blinded Saddam by knocking
out his communications network and electrical power in Baghdad. The Pentagon
launched a sophisticated psy-ops campaign against Haiti's military regime
to restore deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Using market-research
surveys, the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group divided Haiti's
population into 20 target groups and bombarded them with hundreds of thousands
of pro-Aristide leaflets appealing to their particular affinities. Before
U.S. intervention, the CIA made anonymous phone calls to Haitian soldiers,
urging them to surrender, and sent ominous E-mail messages to some members
of Haiti's oligarchy who had personal computers. (Waller 1995)
Although it is a relatively new term, some uses of “Information
Warfare” can be traced back to the 1970s. In A World Information War?,
Tourtellot (1978) offered one of the earlier definitions of Information
Warfare. It differed from current conceptions, referring more to economic
aspects of Information Warfare and distinguishing between information “haves”
and “have-nots” in a global setting.
It has even been suggested that Information Warfare was
practiced during World War II. In the Information and Intelligence Revolution,
Riccardelli (1995), a U.S. Army Colonel, referred to an allied invasion
of France during World War II, Operation Overlord, as “a classic case study
for information warfare campaign employment” and asserted that Information
Warfare is not a new concept.
In World War II, development of radar, advances in radio
communication, the beginnings of cybernetics and the deciphering of intercepted
German (Ultra) and Japanese (Magic) messages were incredible, creative,
innovative accomplishments in the history and paradigm shift toward information
warfare. (Riccardelli 1995)
Riccardelli noted that Information Warfare has been described
as “battlefield digitization, Army Enterprise Strategy, cyberwar, soft
war, electronic combat and many other snappy and image-provoking terms
or phrases,” but favored a definition put forth by the National Defense
University’s Information Resources Management College.
A “working definition” of Information Warfare recognized
in 1993 by the Information Resources Management College stated:
Information-based Warfare is an approach to armed conflict
focusing on the management and use of information in all its forms and
at all levels to achieve a decisive military advantage especially in the
joint and combined environment. Information-based Warfare is both offensive
and defensive in nature – ranging from measures that prohibit the enemy
from exploiting information to corresponding measures to assure the integrity,
availability, and interoperability of friendly information assets. (National
Defense University 1993)
Note that in this definition, developed in 1993, “Information-based”
is used rather than simply the word “Information.” This is an indication
that the term Information Warfare has only been around for several years.
In Cyberwar is Coming!, Arquilla and Ronfeldt (1993),
military scholars at RAND, introduced two concepts central to Information
Warfare theory – cyberwar and netwar. Their work is often cited in the
literature of Information Warfare proponents and in the work of the few
critics (Brandt, 1995; Cleaver, 1995; Hobo, 1995; Wehling, 1995). Cyberwar
“refers to conducting, and preparing to conduct, military operations according
to information-related principles” and “trying to know everything about
an adversary while keeping the adversary from knowing much about oneself”
and “using knowledge so that less capital and labor may have to be expended.”
Netwar in their definition is “information-related conflict at a grand
level between nations or societies.” Arquilla and Ronfeldt believe netwar
“may involve public diplomacy measures, propaganda and psychological campaigns,
political and cultural subversion, deception of or interference with local
media, infiltration of computer networks and databases, and efforts to
promote dissident or opposition movements across computer networks.” (Arquilla
and Ronfeldt 1993)
Schwartau (1994), another early figure in the field, in
a book called Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway
offered this explanation that places U.S. economic interests as central
to U.S. national security:
Information Warfare is an integral component of the new
economic and political world order. Economic battles are being fought and
will continue to be fought, ultimately affecting every American citizen
and company as well as the national security of the United States. (Schwartau
Schwartau contended that information wars are "inevitable"
given "our place in history" and cited as a basis for this inevitability
the emergence of cyberspace, which he calls “the battlefield.” His other
reasons for the inevitability of information wars included the competition
among nation-states in the post Cold War era, the global disparities between
the industrialized North and the underdeveloped South, the accessibility
of computer technologies to criminal elements, the remoteness and quantity
of access points into cyberspace, the low risk involved and the high rewards
gained from "hacking”, and the ability of "Information Warriors" to "leverage
our inherent fear and distrust of computers.”
In Warfare in the Information Age, Berkowitz (1996), a
former CIA analyst, explained the vulnerabilities of an information based
economy and the potential target areas in an informational conflict. Berkowitz
. . . the United States, in civilian as well as military
matters, is more dependent on electronic information systems than is anyone
else in the world. In addition to the possibility that computer and communications
systems might prove to be a vulnerable weak link for military forces, there
is also a danger that hostile parties - countries, terrorist groups, religious
sects, multinational corporations, and so on - could attack civilian information
systems directly. (Berkowitz 1996)
Berkowitz saw the opportunities for the United States in
new military strategies:
The United States may be able to develop new military
strategies using IW that are perfectly tailored to world conditions following
the Cold War. Information technology is a U.S. strong suit, and military
forces could use this know-how to improve our defense capabilities, perhaps
dramatically, against hostile attack and to defeat any aggressors - and
to accomplish both missions at the lowest possible cost. (Berkowitz 1996)
In What is Information Warfare?, Libicki (1995), of the Institute
for National Strategic Studies, listed seven alternative “definitions and
taxonomies” of Information Warfare that have emerged over the course of
the last several years:
1) command-and-control warfare (C2W)
Libicki concluded that Information Warfare is “an unfortunate
catch-all.” Of these seven conceptions, he stated only three are well established.
They are: “C2/EW warfare to break (mostly literally) enemy command systems”;
“intelligence-based warfare – operations improved by information systems”;
and “psychological operations, to shape the perception of facts.” (Libicki)
2) intelligence-based warfare (IBW)
3) electronic warfare (EW)
4) psychological operations (PSYOPS)
5) hacker-software-based attacks on information systems
6) information economic warfare (IEW) — war via the control
7) cyberwar (combat in the virtual realm)
In A Theory of Information Warfare: Preparing for 2020,
Szafranski (1995), a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, defined Information
Warfare more in terms of an epistemological attack on an adversaries basic
Information warfare is a form of conflict that attacks
information systems directly as a means to attack adversary knowledge or
beliefs. Information warfare can be prosecuted as a component of a larger
and more comprehensive set of hostile activities – a netwar or cyberwar
– or it can be undertaken as the sole form of hostile activity. (Szafranski
In yet another article, simply with the title Information
Warfare, Stein (1995), also writing from the perspective of the military,
defined Information Warfare in broad terms that includes the necessity
of information in diplomacy and economic competition, in addition to military
Information warfare, in its largest sense, is simply
the use of information to achieve our national objectives. Like diplomacy,
economic competition, or the use of military force, information in itself
is a key aspect of national power and, more importantly, is becoming an
increasingly vital national resource that supports diplomacy, economic
competition, and the effective employment of military forces. Information
warfare in this sense can be seen as societal-level or nation-to-nation
conflict waged, in part, through the worldwide internetted and interconnected
means of information and communication. What this means is that information
warfare, in its most fundamental sense, is the emerging ‘theater’ in which
future nation-against-nation conflict at the strategic level is most likely
to occur. (Stein 1995)
Setting its scope more narrowly, a U.S. Air Force fact sheet
defined Information Warfare in traditional military terminology as “any
action to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy the enemy’s information and
its functions while protecting Air Force assets against those actions and
exploiting its own military information operations.” (U.S. Air Force, 1995)
In a research paper at George Washington University, An
Introduction to Information Warfare, Haeni (1995) emphasized the lack of
standardized definitions. However, Haeni saw the usefulness of Arquilla
and Ronfeldt’s two main conceptions, the categories of cyberwar and netwar.
As well, from a selection of possible definitions of Information Warfare,
Haeni preferred this one:
Actions taken to achieve information superiority by affecting
adversary information, information based processes, and information systems,
while defending ones own information, information based processes and information
systems. (Haeni 1995)
Haeni claimed this broader definition to be more useful than
some Department of Defense definitions that concentrate narrowly on the
military aspects of Information Warfare, such as the Air Force definition
above and this one here:
Information Warfare - Actions taken to achieve information
superiority in support of national military strategy by affecting adversary
information and information systems while leveraging and defending our
information and systems. (Haeni 1995)
In Information Warfare In the Information Age, a research
paper that surveyed Information Warfare literature, Magsig (1995) also
noted that the “concept of information warfare is one that is easy to identify
but hard to define.” Magsig concluded that “the primary strategy of information
warfare is to achieve information dominance to resolve conflict before
it ever begins.”
In Information Warfare: Developing a Conceptual Framework,
Garigue (1996) offered a more sweeping explanation of Information Warfare
than those put forth by defense agencies. With his definition, corporate
espionage or political propaganda may be included. It is not purely a military
Information Warfare concerns itself with the control
and manipulation of information and information flows. Specifically with
acquisition, process, storage, distribution, and analysis of data and information.
At a conceptual level, IW consists of all efforts to control, exploit,
or deny an adversary’s capability to collect, process, store, display,
and distribute information, while at the same time preventing the enemy
from doing the same. The intent is to control, manipulate, deny information,
influence decisions, and degrade or ultimately destroy adversary systems
while guarding friendly systems against such action. (Garigue 1996)
In Stopping the Hacking of Cyber Information, Evers
(1996) affirmed there still is not a standard definition for Information
Warfare, but stated that one area of agreement is that Information Warfare
has both defensive and offensive properties. But since warfare generally
comprises both defenseive and offensive properties, this agreement should
come as no surprise. It is rather obvious.
The DoD believes that information warfare will cast a
shadow on nearly every aspect of conventional warfare. Although US officials
have still to come terms with a single IW definition, there is across-the-board
agreement that it has at least two parts – defensive and offensive. (Evers
Evers defined offensive Information Warfare in terms of stealing,
misleading, falsifying, and destroying information, data, and data dependent
weapons systems. Defensive Information Warfare concentrates more on the
protection of information of data through encryption and security checks.
Simply put, offensive IW includes acts such as stealing
or corrupting data, distributing misleading or completely false information,
denying access to data, and physically destroying the disks, weapons platforms
and buildings that are part of the storage and distribution of data. Defensive
IW uses virus checks, detectors, encryption and network security systems
to prevent offensive IW. (Evers 1996)
In Strategic Information Warfare, another RAND publication
on Information Warfare, Molander, Riddile, and Wilson (1996) stated there
is a common “emerging element of information warfare” that “warrants identification
and definition,” which they called “strategic information warfare.” They
characterized strategic information warfare as a scenario “wherein nations
utilize cyberspace to affect strategic military operations and inflict
damage on national information structures.” Their collaborative understanding
of Information Warfare is the following:
Information warfare (IW) represents a rapidly evolving
and, as yet, imprecisely defined field of growing interest for defense
planners and policymakers. The source of both the interest and the imprecision
in this field is the so-called information revolution — led by the ongoing
rapid evolution of cyberspace, microcomputers, and associated information
technologies. The U.S. defense establishment, like U.S. society as a whole,
is moving rapidly to take advantage of the new opportunities presented
by these changes. At the same time, current and potential U.S. adversaries
(and allies) are also looking to exploit the evolving global information
infrastructure and associated technologies for military purposes. (Molander,
Riddile, and Wilson 1996)
While standardized definitions for Information Warfare are
still lacking, there is some agreement about which types of technologies
are key to enabling Information Warfare. As mentioned already several times,
awareness of the sophisticated military technology used in the Gulf War
is a starting point for understanding the technology of the Information
Warfare arsenal. The coordination of the Gulf War was made possible by
an extensive communication system and the weapons used, such as the satellite
guided Stealth bombers, were dependent on advanced computer technology.
KEY INFORMATION WARFARE TECHNOLOGY
Results from research conducted for the Naval Postgraduate
School in Monterey, California, that was “designed to probe the nature
and acquisition impacts of information warfare,” were made available on
the school’s web site in the summer of 1996. (Naval Postgraduate School
1996) The research consisted of obtaining commentary from leading figures
in the field of Information Warfare on a number of issues ranging from
the characteristics of Information Warfare to future technologies and directions
for research. Participants in the Naval Postgraduate School’s research
included: Al Campen, editor of The First Information War; James Dunnigan,
author of Digital Soldiers; Dr. Fred Giessler, National Defense University
Information Warfare Course Director; David Gust, US Army Program Executive
Officer for Intelligence and Electronic Warfare; Ken King, Digital Equipment
Corporation’s Director of External Research Group; Dr. Fred Levien, Chairperson
of the Naval Postgraduate School’s Information Warfare Academic Group;
Dr. Martin Libicki, National Defense University; Larry Merritt, Air Force
Information Warfare Center Technical Director; Dr. David Probst, Concordia
University Professor of Computer Science; Winn Schwartau, author of Information
Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway; Robert Steele, Open Source
Solutions. Naval Postgraduate School researchers presented raw transcripts,
on their web site, to the question: “What are the current key or enabling
technologies of information warfare?” Table 3 is a distilled synthesis
of their responses.
Key Technologies Enabling Information
Source: Drawn from Naval
Postgraduate School (1996)
• computer capability of all kinds
• fast and inexpensive semiconductor chips
• massive data storage capacity
• widely known operating systems
• data search technologies and software robots
• modeling and simulation technologies
• telecommunication systems of all kinds
• fiberoptic, wired, and radio networks
• fixed, mobile, satellite infrastructures
• high bandwidth transmission
• global positioning system technologies
• machine-human interfaces
It is with this type of list that it is possible to assess
a society’s Information Warfare capability. Obviously, the United States,
Japan, and most European countries have, to varying degrees, the technologies
in Table 3. But so do more and more “developing” countries in the “Third
World”, such as Mexico. Computer and telecommunications infrastructures
have been growing on a global level, not just in the northern “developed”
countries. Agnew and Corbridge (1996) described a global informtion economcy
in which communication and information technologies are central. Clearly
Mexico’s computer and telecommunications capabilities are not as advanced
as those in the United States. But as we will see in Chapter Three, Mexico
has been gaining in the key technologies that enable Information Warfare.
At issue in this thesis is the source of that development. A theory is
that a major source is the militarization of Mexico through the Drug War.
CRITICAL APPROACHES TO INFORMATION
As noted already, there are few critical approaches to
Information Warfare. In the overview of Information Warfare definitions
earlier in this chapter, the bulk of the characterizations of Information
Warfare were from a military or corporate perspective. This generally has
been the case with the development of Information Warfare doctrine and
strategy. Critical perspectives on Information Warfare need to be extrapolated
from broader critiques of, for example, capitalism, technology, surveillance,
or hegemony, as were mentioned in Chapter One. As capitalism is the overarching
system of domination, it can be argued that Information Warfare doctrine
simply provides capitalists with another strategy for retaining power.
As some suggest, technology enables States and others with power to maintain
social control and domination. An argument can be constructed that Information
Warfare strategy is a logical extension of this technology as domination
model. Surveillance systems grew out of capitalist needs for order and
control in the factory and out of the needs of disciplinary institutions
like prisons and the police. Some argue that now, with the introduction
of tools like computers, electronic surveillance has moved us more in the
direction of a surveillance society. Information Warfare can be viewed
as a consequence or extension of this surveillance society. Finally, where
hegemony refers to a State’s ability, through ideology and brute force,
to maintain domestic control but also regional and global control, we can
see how Information Warfare doctrine, with its emphasis on attaining information
dominance over its adversaries, is an important asset in the hegemon’s
Critical approaches discussed in Chapter One revealed
an idea about a dialectic of control and resistance, with some of its attributes
noted in Table 1. Although most of the critical literature showed how technology
is central to forces of social control and domination, it was also shown
that forces of resistance and liberation were also able to take advantage
of technology. This thesis concurs with the perspective that even though
technology enables a near totalitarian system of control and domination,
this system is not yet seamless and there remain possibilities for resistance.
Unlike the preponderance of the Information Warfare literature, written
by and for the forces of domination and control, this thesis sees the need
to interject the perspective of the forces of resistance and liberation
in the overall equation.
As was mentioned earlier in this chapter, Information
Warfare proponents have yet to agree on a common definition or characterization,
but they do agree that key to an understanding of Information Warfare are
its offensive and defensive properties. This is both understandable and
perhaps even an obvious conclusion. When has there been a war in which
both offensive and defensive considerations were not key? Nevertheless,
this is a central thesis to emerging Information Warfare doctrine.
Typology of Offensive and Defensive
Domination and Control
Resistance and Liberation
Pro Zapatista Netwar
Juxtaposing the concepts of the forces of control and
domination and forces of resistance and liberation with the concepts of
offensive and defensive Information Warfare produces the typology shown
in Table 4. A good example of the forces of domination and control engaged
in offensive Information Warfare is the Drug War. Both domestic and international
law enforcement efforts have incorporated sophisticated technologies in
the pursuit of drug growers and traffickers. This point, with respect to
the militarization of Mexico, will be elaborated in Chapter Three. A clear
domestic example is northern California’s CAMP, the Campaign Against Marijuana
Production. Using infrared aerial surveillance, law enforcement agencies
in northern California’s marijuana production centers identify marijuana
fields and take offensive action against growers.
An example of the forces of domination and control engaged
in defensive Information Warfare is surveillance of international email
communication. Strategic Assessment: The Internet, an analysis produced
by the Pentagon’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special
Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, referred specifically to pro Zapatista
Internet usage and recommended monitoring domestic and international Internet
traffic for “early warning of impending significant developments.” (Swett,
1995) Describing this document, an article in The Nation stated it “is
not the first of its kind. Under the rubric of ‘information warfare,’ other
Pentagon outfits and military contractors have studied how to use computer
networks to collect public information, disseminate propaganda, politically
destabilize other governments, and plant computer viruses into the information
systems of foes.” (Corn, 1996) Although some might consider this sort of
monitoring and surveillance an offensive move, the Pentagon categorizes
this activity as defensive, since it is concerned with “defending” national
security interests. This suggests a somewhat ambiguous distinction between
offensive and defensive Information Warfare. But given that this distinction
is one of the main points of agreement in emerging Information Warfare
doctrine, it will not be disputed.
An example of the forces of resistance and liberation
engaged in offensive Information Warfare is pro Zapatista netwar. The Advent
of Netwar, yet another RAND publication on the subject, described this
The netwar appears in the decentralized collaboration
among the numerous, diverse Mexican and transnational (mostly U.S. and
Canadian) activists who side with the Zapatista National Liberation Army
(EZLN), and who aim to affect government policies on human rights, democracy,
and other major reform issues. Mexico, which generated the first successful
social revolution of the 20th century, is now the scene of a prototype
for social netwar in the 21st Century. (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1996)
Strategic Information Warfare also referred to pro Zapatista
Internet use, calling those who collect, analyze and distribute information
related to the struggles in Chiapas “IW agents” who engage in “perception
management techniques.” (Molander, Riddile, and Wilson 1996) This RAND
document posits a wargame scenario that the researchers considered which
projected a second Mexican revolution “circa 1998” in which “the Mexican
revolutionary movements and nongovernmental organization (NGO) allies in
North America make extensive use of perception management techniques designed
to dissuade the United States government from taking any forceful political,
economic, or military action to shore up the beleaguered Mexican regime.”
(Molander, Riddile, and Wilson 1996)
Finally, an example of the forces of resistance and liberation
engaged in defensive Information Warfare is the use of encryption technology.
To elude surveillance of international email, so-called perception managers
or netwarriors will have to either restrict or customize their language
so as to not signal the interest of monitoring agencies or they will have
to resort to encryption techniques that make surveillance much more difficult
if not impossible. There is disagreement about the desirablity of encryption
Although difficult to substantiate conclusively, this
thesis sees a relationship between the militarization of the Drug War in
Mexico – the forces of control and domination engaging in offensive Information
Warfare – and the pro Zapatista use of the Net – the forces of resistance
and liberation engaging in offensive Information Warfare. Perhaps this
can even be described as a dialectical relationship. The logic of this
understanding is as follows. The Zapatistas and their supporters have been
very successful in utilizing Internet technology. This usage, because it
has inspired global publicity and solidarity, has been critical to inhibiting
the Mexican government in taking stronger military moves against Zapatista
strongholds in Chiapas. The Mexican government, and its allies in the United
States, realized that the Zapatistas had the upper hand in Information
Warfare praxis. It realized that it needed to develop and strengthen its
own Information Warfare capability in order to better combat and attain
information dominance over its adversaries, the EZLN and their supporters
in civil society. The Mexican government knew that it could rely on the
United States for support in attaining greater Information Warfare capability,
but also knew that public knowledge about U.S. military assistance directed
against the Zapatistas would be disastrous. Since the Drug War had already
been a vehicle for justifying greater militarization of Mexico, even before
the emergence of the Zapatistas, the Drug War was an obvious route for
further assistance and support from the United States. Obviously, it is
easier to generate support for campaigns against horrid drug traffickers
than it is for campaigns against poverty stricken peasants lead by a pipe
smoking charming gentleman.
While this above scenario is hypothetical, perhaps it
is not too far off from reality. The level of attention that drugs in Mexico
has received in recent times has grown rapidly. An analysis of the New
York Times might reveal a significant increase in the number articles on
the Drug War parallels a tapering off of articles about the Zapatistas
since the January 1, 1994 uprising. This thesis is not conducting such
an analysis, but it is examining the role the Drug War has had in militarizing
Mexico, and in specifically aiding Mexico in its Information Warfare capability.
The next chapter will focus on this concern. It will look at what is illustrated
in part of Table 4, the Drug War as an example of the forces of control
and domination engaging in offensive Information Warfare.