Hayden on Contactless Warfare in the Information Sphere


In the second video installment, the intelligence expert discusses limits on U.S. efforts in the “information wars” due to constitutional restraints.

Watch the full interview.

More information on our Cybersecurity: The Next Great Battlefield series

WALWORTH: Let me just switch gears a little bit and go to sort of cybersecurity. You draw a distinction in the book between America's approach to cybersecurity and Russia's approach to cybersecurity. Tell me about that difference and why it's important.

HAYDEN: So what I try to describe, and this occurred to me as I'm writing, I'm sure this happens to other authors. You're going along and go, "Whoa, wait a minute." And so I go back in my own personal history. I became Commander of something called the Air Intelligence Agency. It's kind of the Air Force flagship thing-

WALWORTH: Based in Texas.

HAYDEN: In San Antonio. And we were on the cutting edge of things cyber at the time. Which you would expect, Air Force, it's kind of what, a natural domain for a service that operates in air and space. We had moved into the cyber domain I think more quickly than the other services. We were on the doctrinal cutting edge of thinking our way through this. We began to talk about cyber dominance. Land, sea, air, space, cyber. It's a domain. We're gonna go operate there.

WALWORTH: And domain is a separate sort of-

HAYDEN: An operational environment.

CANNON: It's like a theater of war.

WALWORTH: An operational environment that has its own doctrine.

HAYDEN: A theater of war, right. And right, and has its own laws of physics, its own doctrine, its own approach and so on. We had for a while a theological debate there that made us look like a medieval university populated by Jesuits. I mean we were really pounding the table as to whether or not we were in the cyber dominance business or the information dominance business. Let me explain that very quickly. I mean cyber is what you think it is. It's protecting your computers, attacking their computers. Information has cyber included but it also includes other things like public diplomacy, public affairs, deception, what the Russian's call-

CANNON: Disinformation?

HAYDEN: Maskirovka, disinformation, psychological operations. So we're there saying, "So where are we going?" We, frankly, I think at least implicitly made the decision, "We're gonna do cyber." We have a cyber command now. We don't have an information dominance command. We rejected this for a couple reasons. Number one, that's very complicated and this is hard enough. Second, in our political culture you don't do this very long before you start implicating the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment pops up. The Fourth Amendment pops up. So we stayed over here in cyber dominance. The Russians, they went to door number two. The apostle for this inside the Russian Armed Forces was a fellow who's now Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, who wrote about contact-less warfare using informational means to achieve victory by influencing the target country's population. That's what the Russians are doing.

WALWORTH: So that is the Gerasimov doctrine and the quote that is most quoted is, "the role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and in many case, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness." This was originally written, I guess, in the context of the Arab Spring.

HAYDEN: Right.

WALWORTH: And the idea that basically populations could be-

HAYDEN: Whole societies collapsed.

WALWORTH: Whole societies could be changed. Now, in another life I worked at the US Information Agency, 150 million years ago. We were involved in Hearts and Minds, basically. This was an area where we thought we were pretty good. So isn't this in a sense good news in that if the Russians are thinking we're going to have to compete with you around ideas, images, storytelling. We're pretty good at that. We have Hollywood. We have-

HAYDEN: I make the point that the global centers of technology and image making are 300 miles apart in California. We should actually be okay in it.

WALWORTH: Right. So I mean-

HAYDEN: So why aren't we?

WALWORTH: Yeah. If they're saying that that's where the big competition is in the future, bring it on, it seems to me.

HAYDEN: It is if we choose to fight and choosing to fight is hard. I mean that seriously, not flippantly like somebody's being incompetent. We generally don't like the government controlling our information space, our information domain. So you did US Information Agency. That's pointing outward and in a previous age, if you pointed it outward it generally stayed outward. In the current age, and I actually experienced this. When we started talking covert influence campaigns in CIA, which of course, governments do. It's getting very, very hard to conduct a covert influence campaign in a digital world who's effects remain isolated to the suspected, pretended-

CANNON: Target.

HAYDEN: Specific target. It blows back on your own population which we are absolutely forbidden to do. So although we probably have the talent and we probably have the technology, we are limited by a couple of things. One, law, policy, Constitution, and frankly, we generally feel compelled to tell the truth when we do this which gives you a time lag because you wanna make sure what the truth is. What's the old phrase? The lie's gone around the world a couple of times before the

CANNON: Truth puts her boots on.


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