Obama decided to accelerate the cyberattacks despite an element accidentally becoming public during the summer of 2010 because of a programming error, The New York Times reported Friday. The programming error allowed the element to escape Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment plant and distributed it on the Internet.
Computer security experts who studied the worm, developed by the United States and Israel, named it Stuxnet.
After receiving advice about whether the ambitious cyberattack program was compromised, Obama decided the attacks should continue. The Natanz plant in the following weeks was hit by a newer version of the computer worm that temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges at the facility.
Discussion participants told the Times Obama acknowledged every cyberattack pushed the United States into new territory, as well as expressed concerns that any U.S. recognition that it was using cyberweapons could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks.
"We discussed the irony, more than once," one aide said.