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China: Superpower or superposer?

April 11, 2009

By Carlos Bergfeld
The San Antonio Current (Texas, USA)
April 8, 2009

Ponder this -- A superhero’s nemesis is known as
a super villain. So what do you call a superpower’s evil opposite?

Last week, a group of Canadian researchers
released a report revealing a large-scale
electronic spying operation that has collected
data from numerous government offices and foreign
embassies, including the office of the Dalai
Lama. Dubbed GhostNet, the snooping excursion
included spying on emails and pilfering documents
from 1,295 computers in 103 countries since early 2007.

And what presumably powerful entity could be
behind this espionage? The Canadians’ 53-page
report feigns impartiality, yet presents
conclusive evidence that three of the four
servers behind the attacks were located within
the borders of America’s potential superpower
rival, China. The Chinese government has denied any involvement.

The explanation seems too easy, but that’s only
because it is: China wanted to get caught.

The investigation was only able to get as much
information on GhostNet as it did because the
spying operation’s four data servers were
insecure, accessible through a standard web
interface, according to the report. Perhaps they
could’ve checked the hackers’ Twitter feeds as
well (“Hacking D-Lama’s computer is hard, LOL. I <3 China”).

The reason for China’s seemingly self-destructive
actions should be obvious. No stranger to
influencing the media, China has outed its own
surveillance operation because it knew the news
coverage would reaffirm it as a nation to be
feared. It’s the latest in a gross display of
one-upmanship that has only gotten worse since
the Olympics in Beijing (congratulations on the
gold medals, now please get over it), with China
feeling the need to continually remind the world
that it’s a potential superpower.

Well I’m sorry to ruin your fun, China, but this
is a genital-flourishing contest you can’t win,
so to speak. The United States government has
been at the forefront of covert electronic
surveillance for years, chiefly because it honed
its methods on its own unsuspecting citizens.
Yes, due to Section 216 of the Patriot Act,
everyone knows now that the National Security
Agency monitors our phone conversations and reads
our emails (I preemptively send them a blind copy
of all my messages). But there was a time when
our government had to track its citizens’
communications without their knowledge or
government-mandated consent, and working within
those limits has made it strong.

I can’t reveal much, but my sources in the
government have assured me that our own
electronic spy operations — known internally as
Covert-Systems, Undercover Knowledge, and
Electronic Reconnaissance (C-SUCKER) —  have a
much, much wider reach than those revealed by
this report. And they certainly have more than
four servers, which isn’t even enough to host the
world’s least popular online roleplaying game
(Last Man Alive: No Women Either), much less a sophisticated spy network.

With this knowledge, we Americans can continue to
exude our privileged smugness for being the best
at everything, and China can continue being a
“potential” superpower, fuming quietly in our shadow. •

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