Growing Debate Over Pentagon’s Secret Cyberwar Against ISIS

Cyber-attacks Spanned 35 Countries, Pentagon Didn't Want to Inform Them

In the course of their ever-escalating war against ISIS, the Pentagon last year launched Operation Glowing Symphony, which intended to undermine ISIS’ online videos and propaganda network through a series of coordinated cyber-attacks. The operation began in September.

What didn’t begin in September was informing the nations whose servers were being attacked by the US military’s Cyber Command, as while the Pentagon willingly admits their attacks impacted 35 countries, in addition to Iraq and Syria, and that many of those countries were US allies, they insisted no permission was needed, nor any heads up given.

This sparked a pretty big debate within the US government, and one which is continuing to grow, with the State Department and CIA saying that the Pentagon should give these nations at least the courtesy of a head’s up on the attacks, noting that the US would react very negatively if one of their allies’ military suddenly attacked US-based servers under a similar pretext.

In the end, a handful of countries were notified, many of them not even targets in the first place, while a number of US allies were kept in the dark, as the Pentagon believed informing them might raise the risk of the operation leaking to the public.

With the Trump Administration reviewing the operation, in the course of reviewing the ISIS war in general, those same arguments are again at the fore, with the Pentagon insisting everything was a success and that this vindicates not telling many of the nations impacted, and other officials fearing the US is setting itself up for a backlash when one of these attacks is ultimately found out.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.