Report: Obama, Bush ordered cyberattacks against Iranian facility

President Obama accelerated a wave of cyberattacks against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities that began under the Bush administration, The New York Times reported.

Obama chose to ramp up the attacks even after the computer virus, known as Stuxnet, became public in 2010. The virus, which was developed by the United States and Israel, is the first major U.S. cyber weapons operation, according to the Times.

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The U.S. has only recently acknowledged it’s developing cyber weapons and has not admitted to using them before.

After the virus went public, the Times reported, Obama asked in a meeting on the program: “Should we shut this thing down?”

The administration decided against it, and the cyber program, code-named “Olympic Games,” was responsible for disrupting enrichment efforts at Iran’s Natanz plant and temporarily taking out 1,000 to 5,000 centrifuges, according to the Times.

News of the cyberattacks could upend nuclear negotiations with Iran, which are set to resume in Moscow next month.

The attack could also play a role in the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney has frequently criticized Obama for standing idly by on Iran and allowing it to advance its nuclear weapons program.

The report cited unnamed current and former U.S., European and Israeli officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified and parts of it continue today.

Israel’s involvement in developing the virus was crucial, according to the officials, and played a secondary role by convincing the Israelis not to carry out a pre-emptive military strike.

The Stuxnet code that was developed caused the centrifuges to suddenly speed up or slow down, destroying delicate parts of them, the report said. The virus infiltrated the Natanz nuclear facility through thumb drives.

The United States, Israel and others suspect Iran of developing nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.