The June 2 news story "Hackers Spur Pentagon to Bolster Its Security" contained a statement that requires elaboration.

Justice Department spokeswoman Carole Florman's comment that no hacker incidents have compromised classified or top-secret information or systems is falsely optimistic. Classified or top-secret information is the tip of a large iceberg, the overwhelming bulk of which is unclassified information.

The Department of Defense sends, stores and receives enormous amounts of such unclassified information daily -- personnel or medical records, logistics shipments, flight plans, geographic data, etc. -- and without it cannot move forces or go to war. Deployed forces depend on information that travels over commercially owned and operated communications networks, and the information in these networks is accessible and vulnerable. A lengthy and growing list of reports, studies, exercises and real-world events has demonstrated this problem.

While the future "American Way of War" outlined in the strategic plan Joint Vision 2010 is utterly dependent on attaining and maintaining information superiority, we often don't consider the critical nature of unclassified information in this process. Ms. Florman is correct to play down the importance of digital defacement of Web sites -- the cyberspace equivalent of drawing mustaches on posters -- but I'm confident that if another nation-state wishes to do us harm via cyberspace, it is not going to bother about Web sites but will instead focus on those systems that can strategically weaken us militarily, economically or socially.



The writer is professor of information warfare at the National Defense University.