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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 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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