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Earlier, Aaron L. Friedberg, a Princeton University professor and former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney, warned that the future of U.S.-Chinese relations are unpredictable and will depend on whether China remains a dictatorship or evolves into a more democratic system.

“At present, I think it’s fair to say that the Sino-American relationship is profoundly mixed,” Mr. Friedberg said. “It contains important elements of both competition and cooperation.”

Mr. Friedberg noted that unlike the conventional wisdom, “the competitive aspects of the relationship are in fact deeply rooted.”

“They’re not merely the result of misperceptions or misunderstandings or policy errors, although these do contribute on both sides,” he said. “They are instead, I believe, the product of two fundamental futures of the contemporary international system.”

Spying on Qom

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair was in Texas Wednesday and praised the efforts of the U.S. high-technology imagery intelligence gathering community, both government and private contractors, in finding Iran’s secret nuclear facility at Qom.

“You can step back and look at the big picture, look at the forest,” Mr. Blair said during a speech in San Antonio at a conference on geospatial intelligence or GEOINT, as it is known.

“And that’s really what GEOINT is,” he said. “You can zoom down on the trees and in fact you can zoom down on the weeds.”

“If a tree falls in the forest you and no one hears it, you all can take a picture of it,” Mr. Blair said. “And you have the evidence. You can look and see if guys like [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il are feeling well or left the garage doors open.”

Mr. Blair said among the top priorities for U.S. spy agencies is focusing on “leadership intentions” of adversaries - both nations and groups.

“And the key here is integrated collection strategies in which we take our most sensitive, our most advanced systems, we put them together and we direct them toward providing the best intelligence we can to support these key policy decisions.”

A recent example was intelligence work in identifying the Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Qom, which is built into a mountain.

“We have been watching through various intelligence means this site for a while, and it’s no secret that if you’re keeping an eye on the building of a large structure, GEOINT is right there at the heart of keeping you informed and understanding what’s going on.”

Mr. Blair said satellite and other photos of the site were combined with other intelligence derived from both human and technical sources so that “we had a good picture ready when the moment turned, as it did at the U.N. General Assembly this year, and the president decided, with the cooperation of other allies, to make public the fact of this previously hidden and undisclosed centrifuge facility that Iran was building against several U.N. Security Council resolutions….”