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Leaks include documents which raise serious questions about China's cyber-aggression

On Sunday the U.S. Congress and White House's reasons for backing Google so heartily in its conflict with the Chinese government over cyber-attacks and internet freedoms became much clearer.

A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable states:

A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.

Silence Under Fire:  Why Didn't the U.S. Publicly Air its Suspicions?

If the information in the cable is to be believed, the central controlling body of China's government perpetrated what was perhaps the most serious online attack on a U.S. corporation in our nation's history.   The Politburo of the Communist Party of China, commonly referred to as the Politburo, is a 24-member council that controls China's most important decisions.

The cyber-attacks in question were dubbed "Operation Aurora" in the security community and occurred from mid-2009 through December 2009.  Their highest profile target was Google, who had its "secret recipe" -- its search engine source code -- stolen.  Other victims of the assault included Adobe Systems, Juniper Networks, Rackspace, Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman and Dow Chemical.

But if the U.S. government had strong evidence to believe that the Politburo masterminded the attack, why not just come out and say it, or take action?  

The answer is likely a combination of a complex set of factors.  First, China owns much of the U.S. government's debt obligations and is one of the largest trading partners of the U.S. commercial sector.  Economic action against the nation would be virtually infeasible.  Also, the U.S. is desperately seeking China's cooperation on a number of geopolitical issues including Korean stability, terrorism in the Middle East, and global warming.

The leaked cable is somewhat embarrassing to the U.S. government, regardless, given its relative inaction.  It will doubtless increase the East-West tension that exists between the two global superpowers.

And perhaps that's precisely what the perpetrators of this leak were hoping for.

Leaks: Preventing Wrongdoing, or Espionage?

It's little secret that 
Wikileaks, masterminded by convicted cyber-criminal Julian Assange, is no fan of the U.S. government.  Mr. Assange has accused the U.S. military of "murdering" innocent Afghani and Iraqi citizens.

Over 90 percent the documents aired since 2006 by 
Wikileaks targeted the U.S. or its Middle Eastern allies.  That percentage ballooned further on Sunday with the release of 251,287 leaked U.S. documents, of which the Google-related cables were part of.

A key topic of debate is whether this new leak was truly geared at preventing wrongdoing or represented an cyber-espionage attack against the U.S. 

The newly leaked documents indeed largely deal with the Middle East, which could lend some support to 
Wikileaks' claims.  On the other hand, documents like this one, while certainly fascinating for the light they cast on the inside of U.S. foreign policy, seem to have little effect on preventing military wrongdoing and are more likely to hurt the U.S. financially and diplomatically.

Mr. Assange in his early days in the hacking community was a vocal proponent of anarchy -- the philosophy that the world would be better off if its largest governments -- including the U.S. government -- collapsed.  The recent leaks, while damaging to the U.S. gov't and its diplomatic relationships, aren't likely damaging enough to achieve such a goal.  However, they are arguably Mr. Assange's most successful attack on the stability U.S. government yet.  And unlike past damage he inflicted on the U.S. government's credibility, this one seems to have a great deal of meat that has little to do with the war on terrorism.

Adrian Lamo -- the convicted ex-hacker who turned in Bradley Manning, the young soldier who leaked these documents -- condemned 
Wikileaks actions and called for the U.S. government to be more vigorous in pursuing charges against the leaks' masterminds, including Mr. Assange.

He writes in a press release:

Known co-conspirators reside in districts competent to arrest, prosecute, and punish these people for their involvement in one of the greatest breaches of trust in the history of our intelligence community.  [I]t would be irresponsible in the extreme for us to not use all the tools available to us in bringing them to justice.

Mr. Assange resides in Iceland, which has offered him protection from foreign charges.  He is currently wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant for unrelated sex crimes charges in Sweden.  

Wikileaks Taken Down

Wikleaks was coincidentally the target of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack over the weekend.  While it's tempting to suspect that China or the U.S. governments were responsible for this effort, that ultimately seems less likely.  As 
Wikileaks aptly pointed out, it had already passed the cables to news efforts, so attempts to take down the site would not prevent their release.

As of 10 a.m. EST on Monday the site appeared to be up and responding normally to requests. 
Wikileaks is hosted by a worldwide collection of servers and is blocked in some nations, including China.

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RE: I'm certain many will die...
By bbomb on 11/29/2010 12:42:10 PM , Rating: 0
I say that the fallout of taking out the wikileaks guy would be much easier and better to deal with than the damage he causes.

He is playing a dangerous game and must realize that at some point someone is going to do something about it. Going public with everything wont protect you from them.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By SunTzu on 11/29/2010 7:05:50 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, good logic. The guy shows the world that the US has done a bunch of illegal (in every way) and immoral stuff, and the proper response to that is to kill him and handle the fallout later. Have you ever considered moving to Russia? I think you and Putin would play well together.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 11/30/2010 1:26:54 AM , Rating: 2
the US has done a bunch of illegal (in every way) and immoral stuff
I'm just curious ... is the glass half-empty or half-full? The US has also done a lot of good. Raising funds for disaster struck regions of the world. Etc.

If Assange was truly trying to accomplish reform, then the approach taken would be far different. E.g. there would be dialog, Julian would sit down with Barry for tea [beer is too expensive; what, a couple thousand per?].

Assange is an Anarchist. He is also very likely involved with espionage, since he has received illegally obtained documents (knowingly). The proper response to that is to extradite him and process him to fullest extent of the law in US courts.

If you ask me how I'd feel about Assange if something untoward happened to him, honestly, I wouldn't shed a tear. If you catch my drift. But that is neither here nor there.

Btw, how much has been leaked about Putin's Russia? or perhaps China? surely North Korea? Iran? Why not, because they are morally superior to US? or perhaps Assange is merely a glory-hog anarchist who's simply afraid those others would not hesitate to take him out. [Do you know how well Po-210 works? It'd be nice if Alexander Litvinenko could tell you.]

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By Paj on 11/30/2010 9:22:53 AM , Rating: 2
did you actually read this article, or one of the many others? How the leaks mention China, North Korea, the Saudis, Germany, Prince Andrew?

Of course you did. My bad.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 11/30/2010 3:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
did you actually read this article
I might have expected such a response from you. At least you don't have your Grammar Nazi propeller-cap on today.

The leaks mention many countries and people. But I suppose it is too much to ask where the leaked documents come from. Especially since you can't even figure it out. Let me help; the documents do not come from any of the countries or people you mentioned. They come from a country that starts with "United" and ends with "States".

Do we have the least glimmer of comprehension yet? No? If Assange wanted to accomplish reform, or he was on a noble mission to encourage open democratic communication, blah blah blah, then he would be approaching this in an entirely different manner. But no, he's an Anarchist. As it is, I bet Hillary goes after this guy -- "nails his ass" -- and charges him with espionage.

It's political now. Innocent people have died as a result of the leaks.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By Skywalker123 on 12/1/2010 1:05:34 AM , Rating: 2
How would Assange reform in the United States? Ask them to?

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 12/1/2010 3:36:58 AM , Rating: 2
reform in the United States
Interesting that the same theme continues ... the U.S. as the Great Satan.

Assange's version of reform, being the anarchist he is, would be to topple the US gov't, or at least Hillary. Hillary, not being one to sit back and get her butt kicked, decides to nail his ass instead. Interpol is already working on it for her, in case you don't believe me.

My idea of reform is along the lines of Nelson Mandela, or William Wilberforce! or Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Upton Sinclair, Ghandi, etc.

I don't necessarily agree (entirely) with these individuals but I think you can see the difference tween their approach and Assange's. Btw, since you think Assange is trying to bring about reform, I'm very curious what you think that reform would be?

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By Skywalker123 on 12/1/2010 3:15:51 PM , Rating: 2
No, the U.S. isn't great, just an ordinary Satan. :) Topple the government? You mean topple Obama? then i'm all for him! Hillary is going after someone for revenge in a dirty and illegal way? I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT, YOU LIAR!

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 12/2/2010 1:55:59 AM , Rating: 2
For starters
I suppose the rest of your statement was sarcasm.

Mark my words, I am no fan of Hillary. I'm simply stating the obvious move ... getting Interpol on the case was logical.

I reiterate, it is political now. Assange has no reform in mind. And if even a fraction of what Lisa Myers (NBC) reported about him is true, he's an incomparably arrogant low-life scum. His leaks have also directly brought about murder of innocent lives. Perhaps Assange ought to be exposed, no? Hung by his own veritable petards.

Btw, simply toppling Obama does no good. He has proven to be aloof, cold, distant and even ineffectual (when he can't blame Bush; which, surprise surprise, is increasingly the case). So, no, if Obama is toppled then it will be seen as due simply to his mere humanity. No real change will result. No reform ... and hence more "all the world is a stage and we are merely players" type of attitude.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By Skywalker123 on 12/2/2010 9:59:38 PM , Rating: 1
You misunderstand, I know that many Iranians call the U.S. the Great Satan, but I can't understand why, all we did was overthrow their goverment,install an American puppet, sic Saddam on them, resulting in hundreds of thousand of Iranian deaths and shooting down flight 655 killing 290 civilians. Crazy Iranians sure hold a grudge over nothing don't they? You say Assange's leaks have caused innocent lives to be lost? LOL they are only a tiny percentage of what American policy has caused.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 12/3/2010 12:52:57 AM , Rating: 3
Let's start here.
LOL they are only a tiny percentage of what American policy has caused.
Suppose somebody takes issue w/ your post. They contact a 3rd party and both mutually agree w/o coericion on a contract. The 3rd party has his g/f drive you off the road ... and what's that he's wielding in his hand?! You unfortunately were the target of the contract and are a statistic, "a tiny percentage". American policy can be defined quite broadly. [I do not endorse in any way such a hypothetical situation, in disputes foreign or domestic.] However, in reality, I would like to see policy tightened; no more splurging on foreign affairs, trying to buy or influence "votes" and opinions, less meddling, etc. My point is that life doesn't matter as much till it's your butt that's on the line.
Crazy Iranians sure hold a grudge over nothing don't they?
Your sense of history is grotesquely cynical ... and skewed. Each of your allegations are inflammatory and highly disputed, unless you are a Shiite.

You say Assange's leaks
Wasn't me that said it. Here,
and here

If Obama had tasked the CIA to find a way to help the pro-democracy movement in Iran, what would you say? After all, since you say you want to topple Obama, is it then NOT ok to topple crazy-Ahmadinejad?

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By Skywalker123 on 12/3/2010 2:01:20 AM , Rating: 1
Where to start? Ok here

"My point is that life doesn't matter as much till it's your butt that's on the line."

My point is that foreigners innocent lives don't matter, they're just "collateral damage".

There's nothing wrong with my sense of history,and it is skewed from the traditional American line. The "allegations" are inflammatory, yet true, and not disputed by anyone but American apologists. You deny we overthrew Mossadegh and installed the Shah? You deny we encouraged Saddam to attack Iran? You deny we shot down an Iranian airliner?
The U.S is actively trying to destabilize the Iranian govt and has since the Ayatollah came to power, and they don't give a crap about any democratic government, we already overthrew an elected Iranian govt in '56.
Crazy Ahmadinejad has never invaded another country, and he is not the power in Iran, he is more or less a figurehead, the Mullahs are the power in Iran.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 12/3/2010 3:17:40 PM , Rating: 3
Look, even if you are Shiite, I still probably wouldn't believe you. I can see you'd be afraid of admitting something. Maybe it's personal. I don't know. No, I wouldn't believe you because the Koran says it's ok to lie to infidels. The Bible is the antithesis of such.

My point is that your cynicism is just grotesque. In your mind foreign lives don't matter to US.

Your focus is on "the glass is half empty", and by this I mean that you see the US as the Great Satan. The US is the source of all evil in your eyes, but especially, "it is BUSH's fault". You can't get your little mind off the US long enough to realize Iran is spending over a hundred million on terrorist activities in the region. Do you think other Middle Eastern countries are not aware of this? Do you think sponsoring terror makes Iran popular?
Crazy Ahmadinejad has never invaded another country, and he is not the power in Iran, he is more or less a figurehead, the Mullahs are the power in Iran.
Pfft. You've said nothing. I can say the same thing about Obama. But you can't even stand up for democracy in Iran. There is a fine line tween being afraid and outright cowardice.

And we've strayed very, very far from the OP. I'll give you the last word.

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By SunTzu on 12/2/2010 11:35:19 AM , Rating: 2
The leaks come from wherever they can find someone willing to leak it. Assange doesnt go out and recruit people, they come to him. Most (not nearly all) of the documents they have released have been from the US, but alot havent. Maybe you should ask yourself why so many americans feel the need to go outside their media and government with their complaints, more then any other nation?

If you read the email conversations that Assange has had with the state department, you would know that he's given them the chance. They gave them the documents in advance, and asked them to provide a redacted version for them to analyze, and remove anything "dangerous". The US refused. How do you think they should have acted? If there was no publication, nothing would change, and the CIA would keep kidnapping foreign nationals on foreign (and friendly) soil, just bc they share a name with an alleged terrorist...

RE: I'm certain many will die...
By ekv on 12/3/2010 1:53:13 AM , Rating: 2
Most (not nearly all) of the documents they have released have been from the US
No I'm referring to the recent focus. Wikileaks is having trouble paying their bills. So how can they raise money? They failed at getting media grants. So maybe they stir up a big controversy, David (i.e. WikiLeaks) vs. Goliath (U.S.), which drives people to their web-site to help generate ad-revenue.
quote: would know that he's given them the chance.
Blackmailing the State Department is further proof that Assange The Anarchist is out for nothing other than notoriety and money. You have to think about the cost of all the security precautions for Assange. Must make him feel important, feeding his ego.

Publishing these documents does nothing, other than make Obama and Hillary look bad, which they are already doing quite nicely at w/o Wikileaks assistance. What change do you think could possibly come from publishing these State Dept doc's? especially in the manner this was done?

Your implication is that Wikileaks, by publishing illegally obtained information, that is either at or crosses the line into national security -- i.e. espionage -- that the CIA will be put in its place. Kind of like Tiananmen Square (TS) where the small guy stops the tank as the world breathlessly watches. I don't think so, but even if that were true, what has happened since TS? Yes, there are many reporters and dissidents tracking the Politburo's every move. But the Great Firewall of China does seem to put a damper on the flow of information. Operation Aurora was a smashing success (for the PLA). Dissidents in Tibet have their email accounts broken in to. [Hell, even Wikileaks publishes private emails]. China is an order of magnitude (or two) stronger since TS. And more daring than ever. By analogy, this is your plan for the CIA?

How is Wikileaks going to change things? Oh, I can see State Dept. security measures tightening. To the point of Draconian. But change for the good, a moral change??? I just don't see it. Assange is a scam-artist, playing on negative advertising.

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