Fear-mongering over national security never seems to stop

Updated: 2014-11-24 05:07

By Chen Weihua(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Fear-mongering about everything related to China has long been a tool used by American politicians to distract the public from real domestic issues, as exemplified in the last presidential campaign between Republican Mitt Romney and incumbent Democrat Barack Obama.

When National Security Agency director Michael Rogers told a House Select Intelligence Committee last Thursday that China and one or two other countries were capable of launching cyber-attacks that could shut down the power grid and other critical systems in parts of the US, he was trying to achieve a similar result.Fear-mongering over national security never seems to stop

It's possible that China, or even some of the US' own allies, may have that kind of capability, but it does not mean any of them will use it, just as if someone has a knife it does not necessarily mean he is going to stab people.

Should people live in fear every day because the US stockpile of 7,500 nuclear weapons could destroy the planet multiple times over? Maybe they should, after the US recently decided to spend another $1 trillion to upgrade its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades — this in the wake of Obama winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for talking about a nuclear free world.

What Rogers did not talk about was what kind of potential capabilities the NSA he directs and the US Cyber Command he commands have. It would be many times more dreadful to the world if the US chose to use them.

Rogers seems to want to distract public attention away from the NSA reforms that the American public has demanded to curb its rampant surveillance activities. Those reforms have been largely stalled.

Last Tuesday, the US Senate did not get the 60 votes needed to pass the US Freedom Act that would have stopped the NSA from collecting phone records of Americans who have nothing to do with any crime at all.

At a time of divisive party politics, the bill was sponsored in a rare bipartisan fashion, although it had been criticized for not going far enough to rein in the NSA's activities. Many Americans believe these activities violate the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

US tech giants have voiced strong support for the bill in order to maintain their credibility among both American and international customers. These companies for years have been willingly and unwillingly collaborating with the NSA in compromising the privacy of countless people both in and outside the US surfing on the Internet.

A Pew Center survey published on Nov 12 showed that the American public was concerned about government access to their data. About 80 percent of adults "agree" or "strongly agree" that Americans should be concerned about the government's monitoring of phone calls and Internet communications.

Rogers' comments were also a distraction from the growing global concern about NSA activities after its former contractor Edward Snowden revealed its secrets last year. The documentary movie, Citizenfour, which premiered last month, chronicles the story.

According to documents obtained by The Intercept, an online magazine whose editors include Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the Snowden case, NSA has had agents in China, Germany and South Korea working on programs that use "physical subversion" to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices.

The documents, leaked by Snowden, revealed that the NSA has used "undercover" operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with US firms.

This latest evidence came after another revelation in March this year that the US government conducted a major intelligence offensive against China. Its targets included the Chinese government and telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies, according to reports in the New York Times and the German publication Spiegel, both of which had viewed the relevant documents from Snowden.

The reports showed that a special unit with the NSA succeeded in infiltrating Huawei's network and copied a list of 1,400 customers as well as internal documents providing training to engineers on the use of Huawei products, among other things.

The reports showed that NSA workers not only succeeded in accessing Huawei's email archive, but also the secret source code of individual Huawei products.

The revelation drew a strong protest from Huawei officials, and US officials have so far invoked national security concerns as a way to scare the public and deflect all questions.

It was the same as when Michael Hayden, the former CIA and NSA director, wrote an op-ed last week entitled "NSA reform that only ISIS could love" trying again to scare the people who want NSA reforms.

National security has been an effective argument for US government officials and politicians to justify outrageous government activities that encroach on people's privacy. Fear-mongering about China serves the same purpose.

Contact the writer at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com.