Is the U.S. stepping up Internet control push over unproven hacking allegations?
February 26th, 2013
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The Obama administration is utilizing unsubstantiated charges of Chinese government cyber-attacks to escalate its threats against China. The past two days have seen allegations of hacking into US corporate and government web sites, hyped by the US media without any examination of their validity, employed to disorient the American public and justify an expansion of the Obama administrationâ€™s drive to isolate China and prepare for an eventual military attack.
The accusations of hacking against China will also be used to justify increased domestic surveillance of computer and Internet communications, as well as an expanded use of cyber warfare methods internationally.
TheÂ New York Times, functioning once again as a conduit for the Pentagon and the CIA, has taken the lead in the latest provocation against Beijing. On Tuesday it published a bellicose front-page article headlined â€śChinaâ€™s Army Seen as Tied to Hacking Against US,â€ť and carrying the ominous subhead â€śPower Grid is a Target.â€ť
The article drips with cynicism and hypocrisy. It is well known that the United States is the worldâ€™s most ruthless practitioner of cyber warfare. The article itself acknowledged that the US worked with Israel to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program by introducing the Stuxnet virus into Iranâ€™s computer systems. That bit of sabotageâ€”itself an illegal act of aggressionâ€”was accompanied by a series of assassinations of Iranian scientists carried out by Israel with Washingtonâ€™s support.
The sprawling front-page article, which continued on an entire inside page of the newspaper, was based on a 60-page report released that day by a private computer security firm with close ties to theÂ Times, as well as to the US military and intelligence agencies. The report by Mandiantâ€”founded by a retired Air Force officer and based in Alexandria, Virginiaâ€”provides no real evidence to substantiate its claim that a unit of Chinaâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army based in Shanghai is directing hacking attacks on US corporations, organizations and government institutions
In its report, Mandiant claims to have tracked 141 cyber attacks by the same Chinese hacker group since 2006, 115 of which targeted US corporations. On the basis of Internet footprints, including Internet provider addresses, Mandiant concludes that 90 percent of the hacking attacks come from the same neighborhood in Shanghai. It then notes that the headquarters of Unit 61398 of the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army is located in that neighborhood. From this coincidence, Mandiant draws the entirely unwarranted inference that the cyber-attacks are coming from the PLA building.
As theÂ TimesÂ admits in its article, â€śThe firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story [PLA Unit 61398 headquarters] buildingâ€¦â€ť The newspaper goes on to report that â€śMandiant also discovered an internal China Telecom memo discussing the state-owned telecom companyâ€™s decision to install high-speed fiber-optic lines for Unit 61398â€™s headquarters.â€ť One can only assume that Mandiant â€śdiscoveredâ€ť this memo by carrying out its own hacking of Chinese computers.
Chinese spokesmen have denied any involvement by the government or the military in hacking attacks and dismissed the Mandiant report as lacking any proof of its charges. The Chinese Ministry of Defense released a statement Wednesday pointing out that Internet provider addresses do not provide a reliable indication of the origin of hacking attacks, since hackers routinely usurp IP addresses. A Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out that China is constantly being targeted by hackers, most of which originate in the US.
The Chinese position was echoed by Dell Secureworks cyber-security expert Joe Stewart, who told theÂ Christian Science Monitor: â€śWe still donâ€™t have any hard proof that [the hacker group] is coming out of that [PLA Unit 61398â€™s] building, other than a lot of weird coincidence pointing in that direction. To me, itâ€™s not hard evidence.â€ť
The Obama administration followed up theÂ TimesÂ article, which sparked a wave of frenzied media reports of Chinese cyber-attacks, by announcing on Wednesday that it would step up diplomatic pressure and consider more punitive laws to counter what it described as a wave of trade secret theft by China and other countries. The Associated Press reported that the administration was discussing â€śfines, penalties and tougher trade restrictionsâ€ť directed against China.
The latest propaganda attack points to an escalation of the US offensive against China that went by the name â€śpivot to Asiaâ€ť in Obamaâ€™s first term. That policy included whipping up territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas between China and a series of countries in East Asia, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
It has also included the establishment of closer military ties and new US installations in a number of countries, including India and Australia, to militarily encircle China.
TheÂ TimesÂ concluded its article by reporting that â€śThe mounting evidence of state sponsorshipâ€¦ and the growing threat to American infrastructure are leading officials to conclude that a far stronger response is necessary.â€ť It cited Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as saying that Washington must â€ścreate a high priceâ€ť to force the Chinese to back down.
In an editorial published Wednesday, theÂ TimesÂ noted that the administration has decided to give US Internet providers and anti-virus vendors information on the signatures of Chinese hacker groups, leading to a denial of access to US networks for these groups. It also reported that President Obama last week signed an executive order authorizing increased sharing of information on cyber threats between the government and private companies that oversee critical infrastructure, such as the electrical grid.
TheÂ Wall Street JournalÂ in its editorial called for â€śtargeted sanctionsâ€ť against Chinese individuals and institutions.
The background to this new salvo of anti-China propaganda underscores that it is part of an aggressive expansion of US military capabilities, both conventional and cyber-based. Obama raised the issue of cyber war in his February 12 State of the Union address, accusing US â€śenemiesâ€ť of seeking to â€śsabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems,â€ť and insisting that action be taken against such attacks.
In the same speech, he defended his drone assassination program, which is based on the claim that the president has the unlimited and unilateral power to order the murder of anyone anywhere in the world, including US citizens.
Last October, Obama signed an executive order expanding military authority to carry out cyber-attacks and redefine as â€śdefensiveâ€ť actions that would previously have been considered acts of aggressionâ€”such as the cutting off of computer networks. Around the same time, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a bellicose speech in which he warned of a â€ścyber Pearl Harbor.â€ť Panetta toldÂ TimeÂ magazine: â€śThe three potential adversaries out there that are developing the greatest capabilities are Russia, China and Iran.â€ť
At the end of January, theÂ New York TimesÂ accused Chinese authorities of hacking into its news operations, a charge that was quickly seconded by theÂ Washington PostÂ and theÂ Wall Street Journal. That same week, theÂ Washington PostÂ reported that the US military had approved a five-fold increase of personnel in its Cyber Command. Days later, theÂ Timesreported on its front page that the Obama administration had concluded that the president had the power to authorize pre-emptive cyber war attacks.
This bellicose posture toward China and expansion of cyber warfare methods goes hand in hand with growing threats to democratic rights at home. The cyber war plans include options for military action within the US. TheÂ TimesÂ reported earlier this month that the military â€śwould become involved in cases of a major cyber-attack within the United Statesâ€ť under certain vaguely defined conditions.
Efforts to increase government control of the Internet and surveillance of Internet communications are being stepped up. Just last week, Rep. Rogers of Michigan and Democratic Senator Dutch Ruppersberger of California reintroduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The bill died in the Senate last year in the midst of protests over provisions allowing the government to spy on emails and other Internet-based communications.
Delivered by The Daily Sheeple
Contributed by Barry Grey of real-agenda.com.
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