Given yesterday's blog about the most recent explosion of a chemical plant in China and the inevitable speculations about covert activities that it raises, I thought, in that context, that the following article, shared by Mr. S.D., was highly significant, and deserved some commentary:
Russia and China could be 'making it impossible for the US to hide' its intelligence activities
Let's look at a few crucial paragraphs:
The intelligence community fears that sort of a database could be used to identify, profile, track, and potentially blackmail or recruit US intelligence operatives around the world.
Digital analysis of the data can reveal "who is an intelligence officer, who travels where, when, who's got financial difficulties, who's got medical issues, [to] put together a common picture," William Evanina, the top counterintelligence official for the US intelligence community, told the Times.
In recent months, hackers linked to the Chinese government have stolen data on millions of Americans via the US Office of Personnel Management, which holds US security clearance background checks; the health-insurance giant Anthem; and two major airlines, United and American.
And towards the end of the article, this:
Still, "the combination of information [the hackers] obtained from OPM with the travel information they now have from United [Airlines] is hugely powerful" for the Chinese, Aitel told Business Insider last month, "and it will make the kind of work the CIA does much more difficult."
Aitel noted that the hackers' breach of United Airlines was especially significant, as it's the main airline in and out of Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International — the nearest international airport to the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
"Every CIA employee and visitor coming from abroad flies in and out of Dulles, and chances are they're flying United," Aitel told Business Insider.
"Cross-referencing names contained in the OPM, IRS, and other caches would expose identities of US personnel working abroad under commercial or diplomatic cover," Robert Caruso, a former US Navy special security officer who has worked in security at the US State and Defense departments, told Business Insider via email.(emphasis added)
"We need to assume China has hacked every database" at this point, Aitel said. "Anything China competes with, they hack first. Economic sanctions is the obvious response, and it's long overdue."(emphasis addded)
Adding all this up, and one has a definite cyber-warfare scenario that is taking place: American meddling in the Ukraine, countered by Russian hacking; Chinese devaluations of the yuan, possible American covert responses in blowing up CHinese industrial plants, Chinese response in hacking a variety of databases that could, upon analysis, identify likely American covert operatives, followed by American calls for economic sanctions on China.
Stop and ponder that last one, for a moment, and the huge implications it might have. For one thing, you can forget - at least momentarily - all those cheap (and cheaply made) Chinese goods at Walmart-Wally World. Wally World might, indeed, be forced back on the philosophy of its founder, Sam Walton, who wanted (for a time at least) to carry nothing but American manufactured goods. At the minimum, it would mean a huge loss of income for China, and, if carried out over a prolonged time, could lead to a re-industrialization of the West as manufacturing returned home, or, alternatively, pulled out of CHina and went elsewhere, like Africa. It would also, inevitably, lead to Chinese retaliation of some sort, perhaps an even more massive sell-off of US sovereign securities than we have seen thus far, or perhaps another devaluation of the yuan. It would certainly lead to stepped up Chinese cyber-espionage. Additionally, such actions would place the ball firmaly in Europe's court, and a choice would have to be made, one with long term implications: choose the devil you know (the USA), or the devil you don't (China and the east). THe short term prospects would favor the one you know; the longer term prospects, the one you don't.
But it's the cyber-warfare aspects of this that most intrigue me. Clearly, China and Russia have built up their cyber-espionage capabilities, and are choosing the vulnerable "soft targets" such as the Office of Personnel Management, the Pentagon email system, airline manifests. But this suggests inevitably that the reall capabilities against hard and "secure" targets, like the NSA's system, the NAtional Reconnaissance Office's system, and so on, might be better than imagine, but that these capabilities will not be revealed until the game goes "warm" if not "hot." So why would either Russia or China risk even the minimum revelations of their capabilties that we've already seen?
The answer reveals itself as soon as the question is asked: it's because, from their point of view, the war has already gone "warm" (the Ukraine) if not "hot"(the chemicals plants explosions), and the identification of those covert operatives' networks is now, for them, a matter of life and death and therefore of their national security. Additionally, and more importantly, it allows the identification of counterespionage capabilities, capabilities that would have to be known in detail, if one were contemplating covert operations of one's one.
After all, and as I've said many times, two can play the covert operations, color revolution game, and if this high octane reading of the tea leaves is correct, then China and Russia might be getting ready to play it. And in a digital world, the safest thing remains analogue. Perhaps this is why they're not going "cashless" and buying so much gold?
See you on the flip side...