- - Monday, June 8, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I’m not expecting a free egg roll anytime soon from my favorite Chinese restaurant. But it’s the least the Chinese should do since, as a retired military officer with a security clearance, my identity was probably among those 4 million federal personnel files looted last week by Beijing.

Having produced Sun Tzu (“all warfare is deception”) and been grand-masters of espionage for several millennia, the Chinese know the value of ostentatious lying. That goes double when caught red-handed in a theft that clearly reflected state sponsorship. The Associated Press quoted a Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that the United States should be “less suspicious but show more trust and participate more in cooperation.” Presumably inspired by such bold-faced dissembling, on Friday White House spokesman Josh Earnest, blamed it all on Republicans. “We need the United States Congress to come out of the Dark Ages and actually join us here in the 21st century to make sure that we have the kinds of defenses that are necessary to protect a modern computer system.”

From Baghdad Bob to Marie Harf, the most important natural ability of a government spokesperson — male or female, American or Chinese — is the ability to lie faster than he or she can tell the truth; to maintain a poker face while confidently portraying black as a delicate shade of white; and to assume that everyone within earshot will discount the troublesome evidence from their lyin’ eyes.

None of the media munchkins assembled before him in the White House press room thought to ask Baghdad Josh if the Chinese hacking was better, worse or precisely the same thing as the launching of the Stuxnet virus caper of 2010. Remember that? Facing a tough re-election in 2012, Democrats and media allies such as The New York Times constantly portrayed Barack Obama as the James Bond of 21st century presidents, especially his deployment of the Stuxnet virus to disable Iran’s nuclear reactors. In July 2012, I testified before the House Judiciary Committee, calling Mr. Obama’s actions, “a deliberate, integrated campaign of industrial espionage.” A week later, my first Washington Times column charged, “Sabotage is an act of war, just like a blockade or a blitzkrieg, inviting cyber-retaliation against America’s notoriously delicate electronic infrastructure.” People who live in glass houses and all that. But that November, Americans re-elected President Obama as if seeking reassurance that disaster had not been left to chance.

But the Chinese government needed no such reassurance. As China expert Gordon Chang recently told CNN, the People’s Republic of China has had an organized program of cyber espionage for decades. The newest Chinese fighter, the J-31, bears an uncanny resemblance to our latest stealth jet, the F-35. The reason: Chinese espionage is like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, trolling not only for our secret stealth technology but also ready to pilfer anything that might convey strategic advantages. In late 2011, computers at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce inexplicably began printing Chinese characters. Security experts later determined that the Chinese penetration was so thorough that hackers controlled not only the chamber’s computers but also their fax machines and even their thermostats. Their probable take: U.S. trade policies and industrial secrets.

How much is all that costing us? The most authoritative estimate comes from a 2013 commission on the loss of U.S. intellectual property, chaired by Jon Huntsman, former U.S. ambassador to China, and Adm. Dennis Blair, former head of the U.S. Pacific Command. Both men are highly respected public servants who know China well. They compiled shocking evidence that China was annually stealing $300 billion in U.S. intellectual property — 70 percent of the global total and representing millions of lost jobs. The commission approvingly quoted the grim assessment of Gen. Keith Alexander, our former cyber-czar, who characterized this ongoing industrial theft as “the greatest wealth transfer in history.”

There is only one reason why the Chinese would do such a thing: Because they can. As a nation, we are very much like a man, in debt up to his eyeballs and overextended on every line of credit, who finally discovers that the same banker holding his notes is also sleeping with his wife. If you’re Tony Soprano, that problem is difficult but not insoluble. But if you’re the United States of America, blissfully living in a glass house with a third mortgage while arrogantly playing cybergames all around the neighborhood, then you should probably consider your next move very carefully.

Bottom line: No Republican or Democratic presidential candidate should be taken seriously unless able to answer this critical question: How do we secure the ongoing hemorrhage of our industrial and military secrets without starting a cyberwar with China — or something even worse?

Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel, is a military analyst and author on national-security issues.

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