The Eyes Are Everywhere

In the aftermath of the revelations that the National Security Agency was engaged in spying on foreign leaders, China took the opportunity to publicly announce it would step up its own efforts to protect itself from NSA cyber interloping.

“We will undertake the necessary steps to guarantee the security of our information,” said Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Naturally, China made no mention of its own record of both economic and military espionage activities.

Gordon Chang provides a detailed overview of the aggressive campaign of cyber espionage in which China engages and the reasons why it is a crucial component of official government policy. The analysis in World Affairs is informed, in part, by a comprehensive report published by the cyber security firm Mandiant. According to Change, the report “accused the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of funding and orchestrating an extensive program of cyber espionage and theft against American firms.”

Yes, there target is commercial, not national security-related. The program is so important to China, he writes, because of the lack of ingenuity and imagination present in today’s China.

“Cyber espionage is necessary because China has become stuck between the rock of its lofty goals and the hard place of its modest achievement. Burdened by statism and the anti-competitive practices that breed its gnawing inefficiency, China’s state-owned enterprises cannot innovate at the level and pace that will produce self-sufficiency, much less global leader status.”

The economic espionage is not necessarily solely to obtain information, but to disrupt businesses Michael Hayden, former director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, recently noted.

In fact, Hayden said in remarks made before the NSA revelations, spying on government institutions is part of the game, but he sees espionage conducted against businesses and individuals as an international foul.

“I’ve conducted espionage. I went after state secrets and I actually think we are pretty good at it,” Hayden said. “Where I object is where you have state power being used against private enterprise for commercial purposes.”

So, is surveillance of foreign interests simply an old game played by all sides of the international community? Yes and no.. Yes, monitoring the activities of friend and foe is nothing new. What is new, contends Moises Naim in The Atlantic, is the emergence of technology that is eclipsing international standards.

For example, he posits, what if drone technology were applied to the use of IEDs? T

“he two most disruptive military technologies widely used in the 21st century are improvised explosive devices (IED’s), and drones. Combine these two technologies, and we might see IEDs not bursting along dirt roads in remote countries, but falling from the sky onto densely populated cities,” writes Naim.

And that may be the real danger – in the hands of nongovernmental actors the implements of espionage could pose a real threat to all nations.





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