Obamateurism of the Day

Last week, Barack Obama announced the creation of a cyber security czar, giving his administration more czars than the Russian Empire, but that’s another issue altogether. In order to convince Americans of the necessity of such a position, Obama gave us this dire scenario in his speech:

In short, America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.

And this is also a matter of public safety and national security. We count on computer networks to deliver our oil and gas, our power and our water. We rely on them for public transportation and air traffic control. Yet we know that cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid and that in other countries cyber attacks have plunged entire cities into darkness.

Rob Rosenberger at Vmyths, a site dedicated to debunking urban legends about cyberspace, says the President has basically told a boogeyman story:

It’s an urban legend because no one knows any details whatsoever. To be specific:

  • Who plunged entire cities into darkness with the click of a mouse? No one knows.
  • When did these cyber-terrorists plunge entire cities into darkness with the click of a mouse? No one knows.
  • Where are these cities that plunged into darkness with the click of a mouse? No one knows.
  • Why did the cyber-terrorists plunge these cities into darkness with the click of a mouse? No one knows.
  • How widespread were these cyber-terror blackouts? No one knows.
  • Whose power grid Internet connection did the cyber-terrorists exploit? No one knows.
  • How many victims perished in these cyber-attacks? No one knows.

The CIA made that claim in January 2008, which Rosenberger debunked at the time, and no one has given any of the details to rebut him since. It’s also worth noting that the “smart grid” that Obama champions would be particularly vulnerable to a hack attack that would do exactly what Obama says here.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!

  • Does Interpol want to extradite a U.S. citizen so he can stand trial on charges of cyber-terrorism? No one knows.
  • What did it cost to clean up after these cyber-terror attacks? No one knows.