It is a well know fact that the U.S. Department of Defense is forbidden to deploy military units within the nation’s boarders for law enforcement purposes. The only exception to that rule is when a natural disaster strikes – and even then, a presidential order is required to allow their deployment.
According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has changed the rules a bit, so that military experts can be called upon if and when a cyber attack that targets critical computer networks inside the U.S. is detected.
They would still need permission from the President, but once given, a team of Pentagon cyber experts will be sent to the DHS’ operations center, and another consisting of DHS officials will be dispatched to Fort Meade, where the NSA, the military’s Cyber Command, and the greater part of the government’s computer network capabilities are located. To prevent any possible misuse of military power, the DHS would be in charge of coordinating the whole action.
The new rules have been specified in a memorandum signed by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gates – the Homeland Security and Defense secretaries, respectively, and it was signed so that a quick and legal response to such an attack is possible and to prevent squabbles over who’s in charge and who has the authority to do what.