World War III scenarios could become a reality, says Peter Singer, Author of ‘Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War‘
WASHINGTON— Dion Nissenbaum writes: Peter Singer, one of Washington’s pre-eminent futurists, is walking the Pentagon halls with an ominous warning for America’s military leaders: World War III with China is coming.
In meeting after meeting with anyone who will listen, this modern-day soothsayer wearing a skinny tie says America’s most advanced fighter jets might be blown from the sky by their Chinese-made microchips and Chinese hackers easily could worm their way into the military’s secretive intelligence service, and the Chinese Army may one day occupy Hawaii.
“It may not be politic, but it is, in my belief, no longer useful to avoid talking about the great power rivalries of the 21st century and the real dangers of them getting out of control.”
The ideas might seem outlandish, but Pentagon officials are listening to the 40-year-old senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.
In hours of briefings, Mr. Singer has outlined his grim vision for intelligence officials, Air Force officers and Navy commanders. What makes his scenarios more remarkable is that they are based on a work of fiction: Mr. Singer’s soon-to-be-released, 400-page techno thriller, “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.”
“World War III may seem like something that was either a fear in the distant past or a risk in the distant future,” Mr. Singer told a dozen Air Force officers during a Pentagon briefing last week. “But, as the Rolling Stones put it in ‘Gimme Shelter,’ ‘It’s just a shot away.’ ”
Pentagon officials typically don’t listen to the doom-and-gloom predictions of fiction writers. But Mr. Singer comes to the table with an unusual track record. He has written authoritative books on America’s reliance on private military contractors, cybersecurity and the Defense Department’s growing dependence on robots, drones and technology.
The Army, Navy and Air Force already have included two of his books on their official reading lists. And he often briefs military leaders on his research.
“Ghost Fleet,” co-written with former Wall Street Journal reporter August Cole is based on interviews, military research and years of experience working with the Defense Department.
“He’s the premier futurist in the national-security environment,” said Mark Jacobson, a special assistant to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who made sure his boss read the book. “Peter’s always where the ball is going to be. And people in the Pentagon listen to what he has to say.”
BEIJING — Joe Zieja reports: In the wake of the massive data breach that led to millions of security clearance applications to be transmitted to China, Beijing has announced that they are holding open applications for U.S. intelligence personnel.
“The application process will be easy,” Zhang San Li Si, the Chinese architect of the project, said during a press conference that was forcibly broadcast via classified US intelligence computer systems. “We already have your SF-86s and we also have the Office of Personnel Management’s evaluation of them. All you really need to do is download this PDF to your desktop and click ‘open.’ Don’t forget to email it to all of your friends!”
The call for applications has resulted in a scramble throughout the U.S. Intelligence Community as IT and HR departments work together to try and simultaneously stem the tide of malware and stop the hemorrhaging of qualified intelligence personnel.
“We need to emphasize that there are actual, no-kidding laws that prohibit anyone from working for a foreign intelligence agency,” Katherine Archuleta, director of OPM said in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »
Isabella Steger reports: Beijing is striving to present a united front with its supporters in Hong Kong’s legislature, even as the pro-establishment camp is rocked by a series of leaked online conversations related to last week’s failed vote on a 2017 election overhaul.
“According to the leaked conversations published by the Oriental Daily, participants in the online chat included Jasper Tsang, a veteran pro-Beijing politician who is also the president of the legislature. The conversation shows Mr. Tsang was involved in the discussion last Thursday morning to orchestrate the timing of the vote.”
On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper published a series of conversations among a group of pro-Beijing lawmakers on the popular mobile messaging service Whatsapp, showing the internal debate before the vote took place and the politicians’ reactions afterwards.
“That compromised Mr. Tsang’s obligation to remain neutral as president of the Legislative Council, opposition lawmakers said, with some demanding that he step down.”
Pro-Beijing lawmakers last week attempted to stage a walkout of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to delay a vote on the election plan. Yet the tactic backfired: The vote was not postponed, and the package – which had been expected to narrowly fall short of passage – met a resounding defeat. In the wake of the vote, pro-Beijing lawmakers such as Regina Ip, a former security secretary, and Jeffrey Lam, who initiated the walkout, delivered emotional public apologies over the blunder.
“Everyone who could be a potential defector in the opposition has already spoken, it doesn’t look like there will be a change to the final result.”
— Mr. Tsang wrote in the chat, according to the leaked transcripts
The election plan, which for the first time would grant the public the right to vote for the city’s top leader, is opposed by pro-democracy lawmakers because it only allows pre-screened candidates to run. While pro-Beijing lawmakers hold a majority in Hong Kong’s legislature, the pro-democracy camp’s opposition to the measure denied it the two-thirds majority required for passage. Read the rest of this entry »
When the Administration disclosed the OPM hack in early June, they said Chinese hackers had stolen the personal information of up to four million current and former federal employees. The suspicion was that this was another case of hackers (presumably sanctioned by China’s government) stealing data to use in identity theft and financial fraud. Which is bad enough.
Yet in recent days Obama officials have quietly acknowledged to Congress that the hack was far bigger, and far more devastating. It appears OPM was subject to two breaches of its system in mid-to-late 2014, and the hackers appear to have made off with millions of security-clearance background check files.
These include reports on Americans who work for, did work for, or attempted to work for the Administration, the military and intelligence agencies. They even include Congressional staffers who left government—since their files are also sent to OPM.
This means the Chinese now possess sensitive information on everyone from current cabinet officials to U.S. spies. Background checks are specifically done to report personal histories that might put federal employees at risk for blackmail. The Chinese now hold a blackmail instruction manual for millions of targets.
These background checks are also a treasure trove of names, containing sensitive information on an applicant’s spouse, children, extended family, friends, neighbors, employers, landlords. Each of those people is also now a target, and in ways they may not contemplate. In many instances the files contain reports on applicants compiled by federal investigators, and thus may contain information that the applicant isn’t aware of.
Of particular concern are federal contractors and subcontractors, who rarely get the same security training as federal employees, and in some scenarios don’t even know for what agency they are working. These employees are particularly ripe targets for highly sophisticated phishing emails that attempt to elicit sensitive corporate or government information. Read the rest of this entry »
Alyssa Abkowitz writes: The dog days of summer have arrived.
As locals prepare for the annual Yulin Dog Eating Festival in China’s Guangxi region, animal rights organizations are unleashing high-profile figures and waging global social media campaigns in an effort to bring the event to heel.
“An estimated 10,000 dogs are slaughtered for the annual festival, which marks the traditional start of summer and will occur on June 22 this year. Festival participants typically pair dog meat with lychees and a bevy of grain alcohol.”
As of June 18, Animals Asia, a Hong Kong based advocacy group, said that within the past two weeks, around 70,000 people had signed a letterasking China’s dog meat traders to stay away from the festival. It’s the first year Animals Asia has run a petition, the group said.
British comedian Ricky Gervais has partnered with Humane Society International to campaign against the festival. Mr. Gervais recently tweeted out, “Please help our best friend. #StopYuLin2015.” He included a photo of a canine with lipstick rings on its face, along with the caption: “The only marks you should leave on a dog.”
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) June 18, 2015
Humane Society International also launched a letter-writing campaign and has bestowed the name “Ricky” (in Mr. Gervais’ honor) to a black-and-white pooch rescued from a Yulin slaughterhouse last month. According to the Humane Society, 400,000 people have used the organization’s websiteto send messages directly to Guangxi’s Communist Party secretary, Peng Qinghua. Mr. Peng could not be reached for comment, and Humane Society officials did not immediately respond to a request for further details on how the messages were delivered and whether they had successfully reached his office.
Raise UR Paw, a non-profit in Canada, said that as of June 15 its letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the petition website change.org had received more than 340,000 signatures. Read the rest of this entry »
The territory blocks Beijing’s preferred election law
Hong Kong democrats celebrated Thursday as the city’s legislature blocked passage of the Beijing-backed election law that sparked last year’s 75-day mass protests. Not that this was a surprise. Beijing’s vision of democracy—a rigged election in which Hong Kongers could vote only for candidates chosen by a small pro-Beijing committee—was politically dead on arrival.
“All 27 pro-democracy legislators voted no and even picked up a vote from outside their caucus. The pro-Beijing camp staged a disorderly last-minute walk-out, leaving only eight votes in support of Beijing’s proposal. The veto would have held either way, but the scene was an appropriate end to the government’s attempt to subvert universal suffrage.”
Democrats in the legislature had the votes to block Beijing’s plan since it was announced last August. Then came the protests, during which democrats displayed greater numbers and determination than anyone expected. Public opinion, long critical of the government but divided on the reform vote, increasingly came to favor veto. Outside the legislature on Thursday, democrats outnumbered nominal pro-Beijing demonstrators, who wore matching shirts, refused to speak to the media and spoke Mandarin, not Hong Kong’s dominant Cantonese language.
“Unless Beijing puts forward a more acceptable plan, Hong Kong’s next leader will be selected in 2017 like the last, by a 1,200-member committee of the territory’s elite.”
All 27 pro-democracy legislators voted no and even picked up a vote from outside their caucus. The pro-Beijing camp staged a disorderly last-minute walk-out, leaving only eight votes in support of Beijing’s proposal. The veto would have held either way, but the scene was an appropriate end to the government’s attempt to subvert universal suffrage. Read the rest of this entry »
For the Chinese government, the defeat was a blow to its effort to integrate Hong Kong into the mainland. And it was a rare defeat for the country’s Communist Party
The outcome was expected, but the vote was called abruptly amid the second day of debate for the package, which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to vote for their leader for the first time but required that candidates be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.
“After about 20 months of intense political wrangling, many people feel fatigued. No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”
— Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official who has spearheaded the effort to sell the electoral overhaul plan
Pro-government lawmakers walked out of the legislature before the vote, leaving the chamber filled with mostly opposition lawmakers, who had vowed to reject the plan. The vote was 28 against and eight in favor, with 34 not voting. The vote would have required a two-thirds majority to pass.
“After about 20 months of intense political wrangling, many people feel fatigued,” said Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official who has spearheaded the effort to sell the electoral overhaul plan, in concluding remarks in the legislature just before the vote. “No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”
“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal. We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today.”
— Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote
The vote on Thursday marks probably the most critical event in Hong Kong’s political development since pro-democracy activists started angling for greater democracy in the territory in the 1980s. Ms. Lam said Thursday that she couldn’t predict at what point Hong Kong’s democratic development would resume.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 18, 2015
The rejection of the reform proposal was a victory for pro-democracy legislators who stuck to their pledge to reject the plan. The group had come under pressure from Beijing, which said they could be held to account for their votes. It was a serious defeat for Hong Kong’s government, which was forced to promote Beijing’s plan despite opposition in Hong Kong.
“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal,” Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote. “We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today”. Read the rest of this entry »
Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong lawmakers rejected a Beijing-backed political reform package Thursday as pro-democracy legislators united to vote down the divisive electoral roadmap that has sparked mass protests.
Most pro-government lawmakers staged a walkout as the bill headed for defeat, with just eight casting their vote in support of the package and 28 voting against it.
Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to vote down a proposal that would let the public directly elect the city’s chief executive in 2017 — but only from a prescreened slate of candidates. The showdown follows city-wide protests and a year and a half of efforts by Hong Kong’s leaders to sell the Beijing-backed election plan. Here are five things to know about the vote.
1. The Legislature Will Vote This Week
The proposal currently on the table will be put to a vote this Wednesday and Thursday. This is arguably the most critical of five stages in the election overhaul blueprint, laid down by Beijing and in accordance with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution
2. Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Oppose the Package
The package lays out the rules for electing Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 within a framework formulated by Chinese authorities, in which all candidates must be nominated by a 1,200-member committee that is heavily pro-Beijing. After slight tweaks announced in April, the opposition maintains that the system is not democratic enough to allow one of their own candidates to stand.
3. The Plan Is Not Likely to Pass
27 pro-democracy lawmakers — who control a little more than one-third of the city’s legislature –say they will vote against the package, as has one lawmaker who isn’t part of the opposition camp. Read the rest of this entry »
As tensions with China rise, U.S. foreign policy thinkers are dusting off ideas from the Cold War—and questioning the long-standing consensus for engagement with Beijing
Andrew Browne writes: Writing in 1967, at the height of the Cold War, Richard Nixon proclaimed a new American ambition: to “persuade China that it must change.”
“Taking the long view,” he wrote, “we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.” Four years later, having ascended to the White House, Nixon engineered an “opening to China” that promised to turn the communist giant into a diplomatic partner, one that would adopt America’s values and maybe even its system of democracy.
“The turmoil in U.S. policy has been especially evident in recent months. An unprecedented stream of advisory reports from leading academic centers and think tanks has proposed everything from military pushback against China to sweeping concessions.”
For many Americans today, watching the administration of President Xi Jinping crack down hard on internal dissent while challenging the U.S. for leadership in Asia, that promise seems more remote than ever before. In his recently published book “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” Michael Pillsbury—an Asia specialist and Pentagon official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush—writes that China “has failed to meet nearly all of our rosy expectations.”
[Order Michael Pillsbury’s book “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower” from Amazon.com]
U.S. foreign policy has reached a turning point, as analysts from across the political spectrum have started to dust off Cold War-era arguments and to speak of the need for a policy of containment against China. The once solid Washington consensus behind the benefits of “constructive engagement” with Beijing has fallen apart.
“The prescriptions vary, but their starting point is the same: pessimism about the present course of U.S.-Chinese relations.”
The conviction that engagement is the only realistic way to encourage liberalization in China has persisted across eight U.S. administrations, Republican and Democratic alike. Jimmy Carter bequeathed Nixon’s policy to Ronald Reagan; George W. Bush to Barack Obama.
The turmoil in U.S. policy has been especially evident in recent months. An unprecedented stream of advisory reports from leading academic centers and think tanks has proposed everything from military pushback against China to sweeping concessions. The prescriptions vary, but their starting point is the same: pessimism about the present course of U.S.-Chinese relations.
“For its part, China is utterly convinced that the U.S. is pursuing a policy of containment. “
The mood shift in Washington may end up being every bit as consequential as the one that came over the U.S. immediately after World War II, when it dawned on America that the Soviet Union wasn’t going to continue to be an ally. That is when the legendary U.S. diplomat and policy thinker George F. Kennan formulated his plan for containment.
“In one important respect, history is repeating itself: Both China and the U.S. have started to view each other not as partners, competitors or rivals but as adversaries.”
In a 1947 article in Foreign Affairs, he wrote that the U.S. “has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” Kennan’s strategy—to bleed the Soviet Union through nonprovocative resistance—offered comfort to Europeans who feared that they faced a stark choice between war and capitulation.
“China’s missile and naval buildup, as well as its development of new cyber- and space-warfare capabilities, are aimed squarely at deterring the U.S. military from intervening in any conflict in Asia.”
A similar anxiety about China’s actions and intentions has now taken hold among many Asians. U.S. friends and allies in the region are flocking to America’s side to seek protection as Mr. Xi’s China builds up its navy, pushes its fleets farther into the blue ocean and presses its territorial claims. In what is just the latest assertive move to alarm the region, China is now dredging tiny coral reefs in the South China Sea to create runways, apparently for military jets.
The U.S. is resisting. President Obama’s signature “pivot” to Asia—designed both to calm anxious U.S. friends and to recognize the region’s vast strategic importance in the 21st century—is bringing advanced American combat ships to Singapore, Marines to Australia and military advisers to the Philippines. Japan, America’s key ally in Asia, is rearming and has adjusted its pacifist postwar constitution to allow its forces to play a wider role in the region. The purpose of much of this activity is to preserve the independence of smaller Asian nations who fear they might otherwise have no choice but to fall into China’s orbit and yield to its territorial ambitions—in other words, to capitulate. Read the rest of this entry »
Thousands march on the legislature to demand a freer vote
Joanna Plucinska reports: Nine months after the Umbrella Revolution began, pro-democracy protesters again took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand a say in the way the city’s leader is elected in polls slated for 2017.
“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is.”
— Carol Lo, a protester at Sunday’s rally
A crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 people—workers and families as well as students and democracy activists—marched on Sunday afternoon from Victoria Park, a traditional gathering place for protests, to the legislature buildings downtown. Many carried yellow umbrellas—adopted as the symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement after protesters took to carrying them during last year’s unrest to protect themselves from police pepper spray.
Others carried signs that read “Citizens Against Pseudo-Universal Suffrage,” declaring their opposition to the form of democracy described in a political reform bill to be voted on by the city’s legislature on June 17. That bill will allow the central government in Beijing, and a 1,200 member electoral college composed mostly of pro-establishment figures, to vet all candidates for the position of Chief Executive, as the city’s top official is known. Similarly unrepresentative electoral methods helped to spark last fall’s Umbrella Revolution, and protesters are once again demanding broader political rights.
“I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China. Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.”
— Protester and Uber driver Chao Sang
“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is,” said Carol Lo, 35, a protester at Sunday’s rally and a parent of a 9-year-old girl. Lo voiced fears for the political future of Hong Kong’s next generation: “How will [my daughter] survive, if this situation gets worse and worse?” she said.
Another protester, Uber driver Chao Sang, voiced the growing tendency of many Hong Kongers to see themselves as politically, linguistically and culturally separate from mainland Chinese. “I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China,” he told TIME. “Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.” Read the rest of this entry »
The OSVehicle can be built in little over an hour from parts shipped in flatpacks from Italy and China
One Hong Kong-based start-up wants to help accelerate the disruption.
OSVehicle will on Tuesday launch its latest “do-it-yourself car” — an electric four-seater that it says can be built in little over an hour from parts shipped in flatpacks from Italy and China.
“It lowers the barriers to entry for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create vehicles in a whole new segment of the industry.”
— Carlo De Micheli, head of innovation at OSVehicle
The kit is aimed at companies that want to sell electric vehicles or run car sharing schemes, with would-be carmakers buying a platform from OSVehicle rather than a complete product.
“Companies that are entering this market are focusing on specific technologies, such as self-driving or high power electric vehicles. We are eager to see all the open source components that come out of their research…adopted by other companies worldwide.”
— Carlo De Micheli
They order the chassis, electric power-train, suspension, steering system and wheels from OSVehicle. Customers then create the bodywork to their own design.
“They order the chassis, electric power-train, suspension, steering system and wheels from OSVehicle. Customers then create the bodywork to their own design.”
“It lowers the barriers to entry for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create vehicles in a whole new segment of the industry,” said Carlo De Micheli, head of innovation at OSVehicle.
The kit car platform is based on another by OSVehicle that is a two-seater called Tabby.
The company has yet to decide on the price of the four-seater platform. The two-seater iteration of its Tabby platform retailed at $4,000, excluding the lithium-based battery pack.
The “OS” in OSVehicle stands for open source and the company is part of a growing trend of transparent innovation in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »
Plaintiff alleges Zhao’s stare caused him ‘spiritual damage’
BEIJING (AP) — Rules making it easier to file lawsuits in China have led to a new concern over frivolous claims, such as one in which a man says actress Zhao Wei stared at him too intensely through his TV set.
The regulations making it more difficult for courts to reject lawsuits took effect May 1, leading to an increase in cases nationwide last month of 29 percent compared with same period last year, to just over 1 million cases, according to the Supreme People’s Court.
The registration system requires courts to accept legitimate lawsuits when they are filed or clearly state the reasons for rejecting them, and citizens have the right to appeal the decisions.
“Previously, it was difficult for administrative cases, such as people suing governments, to be accepted,” said Li Heping, a Beijing lawyer.
In announcing the registration system, the official Xinhua News Agency said: “Authorities are determined to put an end to obstructive behavior by courts and officials meddling in cases.”
The change has led to Shanghai Pudong New District Court receiving a case against Zhao, the court’s litigation service hotline confirmed. The court official, who declined to identify himself, refused to say whether the court had accepted the case. Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Chin writes: China offered an almost exclusively positive portrait of its human rights situation in a white paper released Monday that cited progress in a wide range of areas. Near the top of the list: development of the country’s film and cartoon industries.
“The white paper has departed so much from reality that its claims that the government has made ‘great achievements’ on human rights are absurd. The government could have counted the number of pandas as a sign of rights progress.”
— Ms. Wang
The annual white paper, which weighed in at 21,000 characters this year, is China’s response to frequent foreign criticisms of its human rights record. In contrast to its critics, who tend to emphasize the rights of the individual, China advocates a broader definition of human rights that puts greater weight on social goods, such as economic and cultural development.
And, evidently, entertainment.
In the report’s first section, titled “Right to Development,” this year’s white paper backed up Beijing’s claim to have better protected the Chinese people’s cultural rights by pointing to, among other things, China’s burgeoning television, cartoon and film production.
”The tremendous achievements China has made in its human rights endeavors fully demonstrate that it is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions.”
In 2014, the paper noted, China produced 429 TV series, accounting for 15,983 episodes, and cartoon programs amounting to 138,496 minutes. The report also flagged growth on the silver screen, saying the country produced a total of 618 feature films — 36 of which earned more than 100 million yuan each — and racked up total box office revenues of 26.9 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) last year.
The latter figure represented a 36% increase over 2013, the white paper said. It wasn’t clear from the report how that growth related to human rights. The State Council Information Office, which produced the report, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read the rest of this entry »
Hundreds more bodies from the Eastern Star were found, bringing the death toll to 396
JIANLI, China—The death toll in the Eastern Star capsizing rose to nearly 400 on Saturday after disaster teams stabilized the river cruiser in an upright position and searched it for more bodies, making it China’s deadliest boat disaster in nearly seven decades.
Authorities have attributed the overturning of the ship in the Yangtze River late Monday to sudden, severe winds, but also have placed the captain and his first engineer under police custody.
Passengers’ relatives have raised questions about whether the ship should have continued its cruise after the storm started in a section of Hubei province and despite a weather warning earlier in the evening.
Heavy rains in the Yangtze area over four days beginning Monday have killed 15 people and left eight others missing, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
Hundreds more bodies from the Eastern Star were found overnight and Saturday, bringing the death toll to 396, Hu Kaihong, the vice director-general of the press bureau of the State Council Information Office, told a news conference. Read the rest of this entry »
China appears to have scored a major win here
Tom Rogan writes: ‘We have a lot of information about people, and that is something that our adversaries want.”
That’s how Donna Seymour, an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) official recently described the OPM hacking to a reporter for the Washington Post. As we found out yesterday, in April, Chinese hackers intruded OPM networks and potentially acquired the personal information of 4 million U.S. government employees.
“China has exceptionally capable, experienced, and wide-ranging cyber-hacking forces. These units are experts at both physical access and remote penetration of network-security systems.”
So how did this happen? Well, according to an OPM press release, the agency has been upgrading its network security over the past year. That said, yesterday’s press release also notes that it was only after the April hacking that OPM focused on “restricting remote access for network administrators…and deploying anti-malware software” against
programs that might “compromise the network.” In short, OPM hasn’t beenmoving fast enough to prevent hacking.
“In short, everything you would never want your enemy to know about you – from a counterintelligence viewpoint, this breach represents a true nightmare scenario.”
Regardless, it makes sense that China was involved in the intrusion. For a start, China has exceptionally capable, experienced, and wide-ranging cyber-hacking forces. These units are experts at both physical access and remote penetration of network-security systems.
Moreover, China has a penchant for attacking the OPM. In July last year, the New York Times reported on China’s hacking of OPM information on applicants for top-secret security clearances.
That the OPM didn’t urgently upgrade its security after that 2014 incident is inexcusable. We’ve paid the price in our damaged national security. Read the rest of this entry »
China hacked into the federal government’s network, compromising four million current and former employees
Ellen Nakashima reports: China is building massive databases of Americans’ personal information by hacking government agencies and U.S. health-care companies, using a high-tech tactic to achieve an age-old goal of espionage: recruiting spies or gaining more information on an adversary, U.S. officials and analysts say.
“This is part of their strategic goal — to increase their intelligence collection via big data theft and big data aggregation. It’s part of a strategic plan.”
— U.S. government official, on condition of anonymity
Groups of hackers working for the Chinese government have compromised the networks of the Office of Personnel Management, which holds data on millions of current and former federal employees, as well as the health insurance giant Anthem, among other targets, the officials and researchers said.
“We wish the United States would not be full of suspicions, catching wind and shadows, but rather have a larger measure of trust and cooperation.”
— Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei
“They’re definitely going after quite a bit of personnel information,” said Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer of ThreatConnect, a Northern Virginia cybersecurity firm. “We suspect they’re using it to understand more about who to target [for espionage], whether electronically or via human recruitment.”
The targeting of large-scale databases is a relatively new tactic and is used by the Chinese government to further its intelligence-gathering, the officials and analysts say. It is government espionage, not commercial espionage, they say.
“They would leverage this data to get to diplomatic, political, military and economic intelligence that they typically target.”
“This is part of their strategic goal — to increase their intelligence collection via big data theft and big data aggregation,” said a U.S. government official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s part of a strategic plan.”
One hack of the OPM, which was disclosed by the government Thursday, dates at least to December, officials said. Earlier last year, the OPM discovered a separate intrusion into a highly sensitive database that contains information on employees seeking or renewing security clearances and on their background investigations.
“So now the Chinese counterintelligence authorities know which American officials are meeting with which Chinese.”
Once harvested, the data can be used to glean details about key government personnel and potential spy recruits, or to gain information useful for counterintelligence. Records in OPM’s database of background investigations, for instance, could contain a complete history of where an individual has lived and all of his or her foreign contacts in, say, China. “So now the Chinese counterintelligence authorities know which American officials are meeting with which Chinese,” a China cyber and intelligence expert said.
“For bigger data storage, for bigger data theft. And when you can gain it in bulk, you take it in bulk.”
— China cyber and intelligence expert
The data could help Chinese analysts do more effective targeting of individuals, said a former National Security Agency official. “They can find specific individuals they want to go after, family members,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities.
Felicia Sonmez writes: At a U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing in Washington on the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown this week, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao presented his listeners with a choice.
“They arrest the journalists, then the journalists who speak out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defend the arrested journalists, and then the lawyers who defend the lawyers who defend the journalists.”
“History will require us to answer one question: Did we stand on the side of the ‘Tank Man,’ or on the side of the tank?” Mr. Teng said Wednesday, referring to the iconic photo of a lone man blocking a convoy of military vehicles during the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.
Mr. Teng isn’t from the generation that marched in Beijing and other cities 26 years ago; at the time he was a high school student at a county in northeastern China.
Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities. His law license was revoked in 2008; authorities have not publicly given a reason. He was harassed and in 2011 was detained for more than 70 days in an unknown location, with officials again declining to publicly address his treatment. He left the mainland in 2012 for Hong Kong.
A year ago, the normally soft-spoken Mr. Teng delivered a forceful speechin Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, declaring at a vigil commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown: “You can’t kill us all.”
“They arrest the journalists, then the journalists who speak out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defend the arrested journalists, and then the lawyers who defend the lawyers who defend the journalists,” he said at the time, describing a tightening of Beijing’s grip over civil society in China. Read the rest of this entry »