I mentioned back in April that I was going to be out of DC on June 8 -- but that if I had been around, I would have been sure to attend the Intelligence Squared debate at the Newseum on the motion that "The Cyber War Threat Has Been Grossly Exaggerated."
Well, the results are in, and the "against the motion" side won big. Ie, the team of Mike McConnell, former DNI/NSA director, and Jonathan Zittrain, of Harvard Law School, was apparently way more effective in arguing that the threat was real, than the "for the motion" team of (my natural allies) Bruce Schneier, all purpose security-guru, and Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center was in arguing that it has been overstated. Info on all debaters at the site.
Teams "win" or "lose" these debates by measured movement in audience opinion before and after the discussion. Obviously such results can be cooked, but here are the reported opinions:
BEFORE: 24% for the motion (agree on "gross exaggeration"); 54% against; 22% undecided.
AFTER: 23% for; 71% against; 6% undecided.
Net change: "undecided" vote breaks in a major way for the "threat is real" camp.
A transcript of the whole debate is available in PDF here. I've just read it through quickly, but on first glance I can rationalize the results this way. First, the "anti" team, especially Zittrain, seems to have taken the requirements of structured debate more seriously than the "pro" team, especially Schneier. A sample from Zittrain after the jump. Second, and to my relief, the "anti" team took great care not to say that a "cyber war" was going on now. Rather its point was, the threat of such a thing happening was serious enough to justify the current level of press and political hype.