Our Latest China Blunder

 

Well, they’ve done it again. Chinese hackers have been raiding the Pentagon cookie jar, the Department of Defense announced this week, stealing classified data about some of our most sensitive defense weapons systems. 

The list of “systems designs and technologies compromised via cyber exploitation” is staggering. It includes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (maybe the Chinese engineers who will get this information can let us know how to finally get it up and flying), the V-22 Osprey helicopter, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, AMRAAM or Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile system, the unmanned reconnaissance drone Global Hawk, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Navy’s Standard Missile and its Mk 54 Light Weight Torpedo, plus Electronic Warfare systems and Advanced Signal Processing technologies for radars–it goes on and on. 

All this data, of course, will now be helpful for developing countermeasures to those systems and technologies – and  all just in time for President Obama’s much-vaunted “Pacific Pivot,” when our major military assets are supposed to be repositioning from the Middle East to East Asia, where the Chinese will be ready and waiting for them. 

So what’s been our response? The usual finger wagging and mutual verbal warnings from Obama’s national security team that China had better stop all this cyber attack stuff or–well, we might to do something. Though it’s not clear what.

Meanwhile, we’ve invited the Chinese to join us in our 2014 Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC naval exercises–the first time the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been invited to join in that event, presumably so that they can get a closer look at the naval vessels their sophisticated array of anti-ship missiles is designed to blow up. 

This is disgraceful. Disinviting the Chinese to RIMPAC should have been the very first move after the Defense Science Board’s hacking report; likewise, banning their vessels from any future anti-piracy exercises off the Somali coast. Sadly, that’s not going to happen, because the latest Chinese hacker foray has uncovered another truth about the Obama administration: it really doesn’t have a strategy on how to deal with China, either militarily, economically, or geo-politically. 

Obama’s Pacific Pivot is actually a smoke screen for drawing down our forces and abandoning our commitments in the Middle East. It’s involved nothing more than a few highly visible press conferences with Asian leaders, while moving a few more ships around the Pacific and 2,500 Marines to a new base in Darwin, Australia, where they’ll be hostages to fortune in the event of rising tensions with China–and worse than sitting ducks in a real shooting war. 

Instead, the real Obama strategy is hoping that by making nice with China and ignoring their serial provocations, we’ll make them see the virtues of multilateralism and behave. Yet since Obama took office, the Chinese have only grown more bellicose. They’ve bullied their neighbors in the South China Sea, doubled down their support for North Korea, and expanded their hacking activities around the world as well as their naval reach into the Indian Ocean. Their navy has also launched its first aircraft carrier while laying down plans for two more – future assets for still more Chinese power projection by the PLAN.               

But what’s to stop them? When they look at our navy, they see a force very different from the one that forced them to back down in the Taiwan Straits in 1996. They see a fleet  that’s under-manned, vulnerable to their anti-ship missiles (especially our carriers), and slated to shrink by as much as 60 ships over the next decade, thanks to sequester.   

Their admirals are spoiling for what one senior officer calls “a hand-to-hand fight with the U.S.,” which they think they’ll win – and the additional data they’ll now have on our Aegis missile defense, our electronic warfare systems, and our data communications links will only  make them more confident they can do it. 

The war drums are beating louder, both in Syria and in the South China Sea. Our response has been total passivity in the first case, and now humiliating appeasement in the other. 

China, Russia, Iran, and the world’s other aggressors are counting on at least another three years of American decline under Obama to complete their plans. Let’s just hope the clock runs out before that decline becomes irreversible–and disaster overtakes all of us. 

There are 27 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Devereaux

    “… because the latest Chinese hacker foray has uncovered another truth about the Obama administration: it really doesn’t have a strategy on how to deal with China, either militarily, economically, or geo-politically. ”

    Andthere you have drilled to the very core of this administration. Only you can expand the statement to includethe whole world!

    There is no plausible strategy for dealing with ANYONE. They don’t know how to deal with the arabs, Israel, the Mideast, China, Europe, Greece, Turkey, Venezuela – heck, we could simply list all the nations of the globe but the 200-word limit wouldn’t allow that.

    This is incompetency at its finest. This is what happens when leftist neighborhood organizers are put on the national screen. They don’t know squat. Valerie Jarrett the president’s closest advisor! Hah!

    • #1
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    @MollieHemingway

    Well this was a thoroughly disheartening post to read.

    • #2
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    @WillCollier

    A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Devereaux
    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 4 minutes ago

    I suspect that’s because it’s classified. The reasoning is that it wouldn’t do to let people know just how badly things are going.

    • #4
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    @NickStuart

     

    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: Well this was a thoroughly disheartening post to read. · 26 minutes ago

    Maybe Colorado and Washington have the right idea. Choom down, and play some video games, no point worrying about it.

    As with so many things, the last stanza of Thomas Gray Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College comes to mind:

    To each his sufferings: all are men,     Condemned alike to groan, The tender for another’s pain;     The unfeeling for his own. Yet ah! why should they know their fate? Since sorrow never comes too late,     And happiness too swiftly flies. Thought would destroy their paradise. No more; where ignorance is bliss,     ‘Tis folly to be wise.
    • #5
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    @DocJay

    They have us by the glands financially. How can we have fallen so low?

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RedFeline

    I LOVED your book, How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Thanks for a great read! :-) 

    I admire China and its ancient civilization. Although fierce warriors, it seems that they have been primarily manufacturers and traders in the past, with the fortification of the Silk Road an early project around 200 BCE. Recently, China has been consolidating the area it perceives as China, and setting in a defensive periphery including Tibet and China’s North-Western borders, but this is defensive of China proper and the sources of the Yangtze River in Tibet. Vulnerable as China has always been to foreign invasion, it would appear natural that they are very much on the defensive.

    Then there is the Chinese philosophical outlook on life. They are an highly intelligent, pragmatic, highly organized, people, caring about good government. In the throes of change in their society, they are dealing with the challenges as they see best suits their society today. 

    I presume this is all taken into consideration when a foreign policy towards China is developed by the United States. 

    What do you think would be a good strategy for the United States to adopt towards China, Dr. Herman? 

    • #7
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    @MafutaKizola
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: Well this was a thoroughly disheartening post to read. · 1 hour ago

    Ricochet subscription should come with a complementary monthly supply of happy pills to get us through posts like this.

    In any case I for once welcome our new Chinese overlords.

    • #8
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    @Copperfield

    The world is like the prohibition gangland in the movieMiller’s Crossingand America is the boss, Leo.   

    Tom Reagan (to Leo): “You don’t run this town by royal decree, you run it because people think you run it.  And when they stop thinkin’ it, you stop runnin’ it.” 

    Tom & Leo responded to challenge with brutality (Leo) and clever planning (Tom).  The Obama administration, not so much. 

    • #9
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    @ArthurHerman
    Devereaux

    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 4 minutes ago

    You’re right, the report doesn’t specifically state that the hackers cracked into JWICS or any of the other networks the Pentagon uses to transmit classified data: but when it says the designs that were compromised now give the Chinese an operational edge, it has to mean classified data got snatched: maybe from defense contractors, we don’t know.  Comes to the same thing, tho, from an operational standpoint: and the report does say there is no guarantee the DoD systems could stand up to a full-scale cyber attack.

    • #10
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    @MisterDog

    I hadn’t heard we were inviting the Chicoms to RIMPAC. While we’re at it, why don’t we invite the Norks to the next FOAL EAGLE. Makes as much sense.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Member
    @SPare
    Devereaux

    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 4 minutes ago

    I suspect that’s because it’s classified. The reasoning is that it wouldn’t do to let people know just how badly things are going. · 3 hours ago

    Might not necessarily be the case.  I am led to understand that the way that the Chinese generally practice espionage is not through the daring collection of classified data, but by collecting massive amounts of data that are either open source or are marginally protected.  They then employ lots of people to collate and interpret all of that data to develop their intelligence picture.

    Of course, they also use this technique to better target the specific pieces of classified data that they do need…

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Devereaux

    SPare – EVERYONE collects intelligence that way. James Bond is good for Hollywhoosh, but real life is drab – much more like George Smiley than Bond.

    That said, there ARE specific issues that are “cracked”, or at least attempts are made to do that. And there are intelligence actions that we don’t know about – because they are successful. Sometimes we learn about them years later, but in real time – not so much.

    • #13
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    @BrianClendinen
    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 8 hours ago

     I don’t understand how this could happen. I used to work at a plant that had the largest Classifed network of any private company in the southeast. Although I did not work in IT, I know all the classified networks are closed systems.

    You would have to get access to a terminal that was in the closed system, or somehow get a backdoor on a piece of media that connects to the network that then dumps classifed data to  to another piece of media that then is connect to an unclassified network.

    However, if you do this it is almost always a security voliation.

    Unless you are able to compromise an actual person, I don’t know how you could do that remotely. 

    Then again we are talking goverment who might not follow their own secuirty rules very well.

    • #14
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    @BrianClendinen
    SPare

    Devereaux

    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 4 minutes ago

    I suspect that’s because it’s classified. The reasoning is that it wouldn’t do to let people know just how badly things are going. · 3 hours ago

    Might not necessarily be the case.  I am led to understand that the way that the Chinese generally practice espionage is not through the daring collection of classified data, but by collecting massive amounts of data that are either open source or are marginally protected.  They then employ lots of people to collate and interpret all of that data to develop their intelligence picture.

    Of course, they also use this technique to better target the specific pieces of classified data that they do need… · 5 hours ago

    Yes I think that would be the only way without having a spy on the inside. You can create classsifed data from mutiple  unclassifed sorces (somtimes 100% public).

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @BrianClendinen
    Arthur Herman

    Their admirals are spoiling for what one senior officer calls “a hand-to-hand fight with the U.S.,” which they think they’ll win – and the additional data they’ll now have on our Aegis missile defense, our electronic warfare systems, and our data communications links will only  make them more confident they can do it. 

    There is no way even 20 years from now they could win unless we fight them on their home turf, then they would have their land based fighter force able to strike at U.S. ships.

    Then yes, we would easly lose unless we had our land based fighter forces were repositioned at airbases that could protect our navel assets. Then I could see 10 or 20 years from now if we keep drawing down our air and naval forces we could maybe loss but it would be in the air we loss not at sea. We can draw down our navel forces and it will cost use force projectiong capiblities. However, if we keep our airforce large, as long as we have major base access with our allies (Japan, S. Korea, Tawan), we might get hurt bad but will win.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Contributor
    @ArthurHerman
    Brian Clendinen

    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 8 hours ago

     I don’t understand how this could happen. I used to work at a plant that had the largest Classifed network of any private company in the southeast. Although I did not work in IT, I know all the classified networks are closed systems.

     

    Edited 13 hours ago

    Contractors share design data with suppliers or subcontractors all the time, some of which may be officially classified but gets sent on an unclassified  network, or even in an email–esp if certain people are in a hurry or aren’t particularly security-conscious.   All a hacker has to do is keep scooping up bits inadvertently leaked info about a single weapons system and voila like a pointaliste painting emerges an overall picture starts to emerge: then the engineers on your end then fill in the gaps.  

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Contributor
    @ArthurHerman
    Red Feline: I LOVED your book,How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Thanks for a great read! :-) 

     

    What do you think would be a good strategy for the United States to adopt towards China, Dr. Herman?  · 22 hours ago

    In 200 words or less???  I actually think we’ll have a good long term relationship with China and the Chinese.  But they need to learn to stay in their lane!  Like Germany in the late 19th century, they need to realize their aggressive foreign policy is totally at odds with a stable global system on which their own future of economic growth depends.   They need to realize a strong US acts as a constraint on Russia, not only in Europe but also in central Asia but now in the Middle East: and that propping up North Korea will eventually make Japan build nukes,  a real nightmare for them. 

    A strong coherent active US policy would aim to make them see this.  Imperial Germany didn’t learn to stay in its lane: the result was World War One.   Let’s hope the Chinese don’t  make the same mistake.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Contributor
    @ArthurHerman
    Brian Clendinen

    Arthur Herman

     

    There is no way even 20 years from now they could win unless we fight them on their home turf, then they would have their land based fighter force able to strike at U.S. ships.

    Then yes, we would easly lose unless we had our land based fighter forces were repositioned at airbases that could protect our navel assets. However, if we keep our airforce large, as long as we have major base access with our allies (Japan, S. Korea, Tawan), we might get hurt bad but will win. · 13 hours ago

    Edited 12 hours ago

    Oh, I agree I don’t think the Chinese will do as well as they think with their naval equivalent of the Schlieffen Plan!  The problem is our latest doctrine for dealing with that threat, Air Sea Battle, has our ships scurrying for cover around the Pacific while we loblong range Stealth and cruise missile attacks hoping to take out their air defense.  It’s entirely reactive, and ultimately relies on massive retaliation as the real deterrent.   Not a very good set of options, in my view.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @WillCollier
    SPare

    Will Collier: A quibble:  I’ve yet to see any reporting indicating the Chinese hacking has compromised CLASSIFIED defense systems.  That wouldn’t make widespread hacking of unclassified networks containing defense data (which has certainly happened) any less of a bad thing, but there is a distinct difference between the two. · 4 minutes ago

    Might not necessarily be the case.  I am led to understand that the way that the Chinese generally practice espionage is not through the daring collection of classified data, but by collecting massive amounts of data that are either open source or are marginally protected.  They then employ lots of people to collate and interpret all of that data to develop their intelligence picture.

    Of course, they also use this technique to better target the specific pieces of classified data that they do need… · 20 hours ago

    That’s been my experience as well.  I would be pretty surprised if the classified nets have actually been compromised (minus the entirely-real possibility of an insider copying from classified systems).   But as Dr. Herman notes, you can still get an awful lot of valuable data from the unclass side.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Contributor
    @ArthurHerman
    Eric Warren: Well, we could start a big government program to fight the cyber wars, or we could write letters of marque and let slip the acne covered, Cheetos eating dogs of war. · 10 hours ago

    I know the letter of marque, which is very clever.  There are just two problems in the China case:

    One, the Chinese don’t have that much to steal!  Our military, like our economy and infratstructure, is much more wired to the Internet than theirs and therefore that much more vulnerable.  The assymetries of privateering (Sir Francis Drake grabbing Spanish galleons with holds full of bullion) don’t really apply here.

    Second,  that means in an escalating cyber conflict we have more to lose, than they do.   I’m all in favor of being aggressive in hunting down detected hackers, and making the Chinese government accountable–even showing that we can do seriously damaging exploits if we have to.   But linkage, ie that cyber attacks will have consequences in terms of trade and multilateral relations with other Asian countries, is still the best way to go.  

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Well, we could start a big government program to fight the cyber wars, or we could write letters of marque and let slip the acne covered, Cheetos eating dogs of war.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @

    I’m not so sure it’s that simple though. If we have more to lose, why accept them continuously getting away with taking it? And, while they do it, they get better and better at it. Furthermore, we aren’t going to beat them in the hacking wars state vs state. OTOH, show what happens when you let a few freelancers loose, and threaten to let them all loose, what will they do? The end game is shutting them out almost completely from the web. Who is worse off then?

    • #23
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    @Devereaux

    ?How would letters of marque work. In the old days you brought in real gold and silver. ?What to the hackers bring in. Privateers were not meant to replace navies, nor fight naval actions; they were to trash the economic benefits of sailing. ?What tangible benefits can the hackers get from hacking the Chinese.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Not sure you even need monetary reward for many hackers. Just give them legal cover. Similar treatment could be used with terrorist exporting states. Give citizens a pass on the Logan Act and other applicable restrictions and let’em go. “Dear so called leader of country A, we the people of country B having tired of the actions of your people and agents have decided to fight fre with fire. Ya’ll yell when you have had enough, okay?”

    • #25

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