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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: Much ado about nothing
By tim851 on 11/29/2010 1:50:19 PM , Rating: 5
Julian is a terrorist and as such, should be dealt with like a terrorist.

He is NOT a terrorist. He MIGHT be a criminal.

This is exactly the kind of bullsh*t people with brains are afraid of. That sooner or later everybody unpopular with the powers that be is just labeled a terrorist, so he can be dealt with according to these brave new rules of the war on terror, thereby bypassing the pesky little code of law, that has made subjugating people so difficult.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By MrBlastman on 11/29/10, Rating: -1
RE: Much ado about nothing
By sviola on 11/29/2010 2:30:10 PM , Rating: 5
I think calling him a terrorist is a stretch. If he is a terrorist for publicizing these documents, so are all the journalists and newspapers around the world that have printed excerpts of them as well.

About the war on terror, I think the government and us media makes it bigger than it really is. The number of terrorist attacks today happens less than it did in the 70s and 80s.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By rcc on 11/29/2010 3:27:24 PM , Rating: 2
That begs the question of: perhaps anti-terrorist efforts are working?

RE: Much ado about nothing
By Samus on 11/29/10, Rating: 0
RE: Much ado about nothing
By Reclaimer77 on 11/29/2010 6:06:48 PM , Rating: 2
The number of terrorist attacks today happens less than it did in the 70s and 80s.

Well yeah in the 70's and 80's we weren't killing them by the thousands either lol.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By SunTzu on 11/29/2010 6:59:35 PM , Rating: 5
No, you just paid them alot of money to go kill someone else.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By ninus3d on 12/4/2010 4:08:54 PM , Rating: 2
I love you, SunTzu <3

RE: Much ado about nothing
By 91TTZ on 11/29/2010 2:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
We can't call him a criminal. We can though, being a foreign citizen who is threatening us and then actually releasing private information from US agencies with the only apparent intent to harm our country--surmise him to be a terrorist.

That's some really wacky logic there. Releasing information is not terrorism. We're the ones that made this information, it's not like he concocted it about us.

He is not a terrorist. Let's not stretch that term to fit anyone you don't like.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By YashBudini on 11/29/2010 6:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
He is not a terrorist. Let's not stretch that term to fit anyone you don't like.

The term is now the 21st century branding tool of choice. One of the first in the US was to call someone a witch, and in the 50's they were called card carrying communists. Just watch, anybody that causes government any kind of embarrassment or harassment is labeled this way. This technique is widely used but such greats as Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, and the rest of the fair and balanced crowd.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By KingofFah on 11/29/2010 3:23:41 PM , Rating: 4
Your viewpoint is exactly the reason why I doubt there's much hope for the US: because I believe there is a significant amount who agree with your view and are typically more likely to vote. While there may very well be individuals or small groups of people who would indeed want to kill all US citizens (psychopaths perhaps), it is more accurate to say there are terrorist groups that want to take down the US government or at least stop them from interfering in other people's matters.

What did the average Russian citizen have against the average US citizen during the cold war, and vice versa, that wasn't borne out of government propaganda? There is a war on terror simply because the US was putting its nose where it didn't belong, yet again, and the violent groups in those areas retaliated. How dare they!? And they had the gall to attack US citizens with planes instead of the civilised, long-range-missile way!

You may say that there were terrorist attacks before, but the US was doing things before then which instigated those actions. Besides, there will always be people who try to take down what is perceived as morally wrong; they will be labeled as terrorists by one side, and righteous by the other.

It would kill most people to look at things from different perspectives. Under today's definition of terrorists, the founding fathers of the US could have been labeled as terrorists against Britain. To the victors go the spin of historical data. I'll add that, and this is purely my opinion, the founding fathers of the US would be appalled and shamed at the state of the US today: run by an oppressive, border-line totalitarian government, creating a surveillance state and eating away civil liberties on almost a daily basis. It exists to serve itself and its interests, not its citizens.

I have respect for the honour and courage it does take to be a soldier, don't get me wrong. However, the higher up in rank you go, the more corruption you find -- it's one of the universal laws of power when in the hands of any human.

Anyway, I'm not going into the concepts of human morality, power, greed, governments, idealism, etc. I rarely posted here in the past, and the rarity becomes greater as time goes on.

Pigheadedness, complacency, and ignorance will most likely be the harbingers of the end of the US as it is today, not intelligence, leadership, fortitude, or valour -- the latter list of things usually happens after the former has brought an irreconcilable state.

One final note: I used to believe that people who say "if you don't like it, then leave" were wrong simply because that's against the original American ideal. However, I've thought more and realised that perhaps they are right. Maybe people who don't share that patriotic, "the federal government is good and just", and "question everyone else before questioning our government" view should indeed leave as they truly are no longer American since what it is to be American has changed so much since its beginning.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By Dr of crap on 11/30/2010 8:34:59 AM , Rating: 2
A fine writen point!
If only more had this view.
Thanks, and post more when the points given on here are crap, like they can be.

RE: Much ado about nothing
By Skywalker123 on 12/1/2010 1:01:09 AM , Rating: 1
"Our Government is not subjugating us by calling him a terrorist, they are only speaking the truth (if only they would do such a thing).

Also, wake up! There IS a war on terror. There ARE people out there trying to kill us all".

bet you can't say that with a straight face!

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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