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Stuxnet was our idea, says Israel

The NYT story comes from a book by reporter David Sanger due to be published this week: Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power. In this book Sanger apparently claims that Stuxnet was a US idea to attack the Iranian nuclear program and part of an operation code-named ‘Olympic Games’ initiated in 2007 by the then president Bush. However, when Obama came to power, he initially questioned whether Olympic Games should be curtailed, but then decided to expand and speed up the project.

Now Yossi Melman, a journalist for Israel's left-wing Ha'aretz daily, is suggesting this is misleading. “In an excerpt adapted from his book by the Times,” writes Melman, “Sanger wrote that only at a later stage were Israeli intelligence experts and computer wizards... brought in and joined forces.” This, he suggests, is not what happened. Israeli officials have given him a different account. “They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran’s nuclear intentions.” It was only later that they managed to convince the US to join. The US is saying ‘we did it, and you helped;’ while Israel is saying, ‘no, we did it, and you helped.’

“Yet my Israeli sources understand the sensitivity and the timing of the issue and are not going to be dragged into a battle over taking credit,” adds Melman. He notes that it is presidential election season in the US, and says his sources “don’t want to spoil the party for President Obama and his officials, who shared in a twisted and manipulated way some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of the success of cyberwar.”

The truth is that we are none the wiser. Sanger’s claims effectively publicize his own new book. Melman adds, “In our book, Spies Against Armageddon, we will reveal much more...” The whole furore could be little more than a publicity campaign to boost sales of two new books. The reality is probably that they both did it, and the only real question is who had the idea first.