Under the new rules, the president would approve using the military's computer-network warfare expertise and the Department of Homeland Security would direct the work, The New York Times reported Thursday. The system would be similar to the system used when the military is called in for natural disasters.
Officials who helped draft the rules said the goal was to ensure a rapid response to a cyberthreat and balance civil liberties concerns.
The rules were determined to be essential because most of the government's computer network capabilities are within the Pentagon while most of the key targets are on domestic soil, officials told the Times.
Robert Butler, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary for cyberpolicy, said the rules were meant to reduce the legal debate about the authority for operating domestically and to focus on how to respond best to the threat of attack on critical computer networks.
Butler said teams of lawyers would watch for potential violations of civil liberties.
"We have put protection measures in place," he said.