The worm was loose.
That was the mystifying, disturbing news rippling through Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, and across the Potomac at the CIA. Now, on a midsummer day in 2010, Leon Panetta, the CIA director, and two men responsible for overseeing the most sophisticated, complex cyberattack the United States had ever launched against an adversary, descended the steps into the White House Situation Room to tell President Obama and his national security team that something had gone badly awry. America's most closely guarded covert operation targeting Iran's nuclear program - known to a small circle of officials by its code name, "Olympic Games" - was in jeopardy because of a careless error. Suddenly the malicious software Americans and Israelis spent years perfecting was being replicated across the Internet, and hackers had given it an ominous-sounding name: "Stuxnet."...
For a new president with little patience for technological detail, Obama was deeply engaged in planning America's covert attacks on Iran. After each major use of the new cyberweapon, Obama would meet in the Situation Room to assess the damage - and the delay to Iran's program - with the men overseeing Olympic Games. Often, they would bring with them "the horse blanket" - a giant, foldout schematic diagram of Iran's nuclear production facilities. Those meetings often ended with the president's authorization to proceed with the next step - sometimes a strike riskier and bolder than what had been attempted previously. Perhaps not since Lyndon Johnson had sat in the same room, more than four decades before, picking bombing targets in North Vietnam, had a president of the United States been so intimately involved in the step-by-step escalation of an attack on a foreign nation's infrastructure.
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