“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We Were Talking About China the Other Day

Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed Washington Times defense and national-security reporter, Bill Gertz about his new, Enemies: How America’s Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets—and How We Let It Happen.

Bad news, essentially, our counter intelligence efforts are in as much disarray as our intelligence gathering efforts. Nearly 140 nations and some 35 known and suspected terrorist groups target the United States through espionage.
“…despite the extremely damaging spy case of FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, who spied for Russia, the FBI has not done enough to screen employees and limit their computer access to secrets. “ Gertz talked about, “Leandro Aragoncillo was a spy for the Philippines who infiltrated the White House offices of Vice President Al Gore and Vice President Dick Cheney. He went on to get a job as an analyst at an FBI analytical unit in New Jersey and was caught by immigration agents after he tried to use his official status as an FBI employee to help one of his confederates in a spy ring that supplied U.S. secrets to Philippines opposition politicians.”
Interestingly, Gertz shed some light on Chinese intentions which some of us at the EB were speculating on a few days ago. It seems that Gertz thinks China is up to no good:

Gertz: We are the main target because enemies of the United States want to obtain our most important secrets, which range from our military’s unique warfighting techniques, to advanced weaponry, to our economic and high-technology secrets. They also seek to influence our government and force it to adopt policies that are contrary to U.S. national interests, such as the unprecedented Chinese-influence operations that have resulted in naive and counterproductive policies toward China that seek to portray a nuclear armed Communist dictatorship as a non-threatening power. Terrorists also have targeted our military and intelligence services, seeking to learn valuable information that could be used to conduct terrorist attacks against us.

Unfortunately, we know very little about these enemies’ intelligence-gathering capabilities and unless we rapidly build-up our counterintelligence agencies, we are vulnerable to devastating losses.

Lopez: How significant a threat is China to our national security? Are we taking it seriously enough?

Gertz: China today represents the most serious long-term threat to our national security. Beijing is rapidly building up its military forces with one aim: To prepare to win a future military conflict against the United States. China’s intelligence services, both its Ministry of State Security (civilian) and Second Department of the People’s Liberation Army, known as 2 PLA, are the leading edge of a secret war by China against the United States. They are following the dictum of ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, who said he acme of skill is defeating your enemy without firing a shot. Unfortunately, China, through intelligence operations and related influence operations have fooled major portions of the U.S. government, from the White House National Security Council to the higher levels of the military services into believing that China poses not threat to the United States.
The civilian part of the Pentagon alone among U.S. government agencies is taking the threat from China seriously and has begun quietly implementing a so-called “hedge strategy” that involves a build up of military forces in the Pacific and Asia that will better position the United States to deal with a China that in the future drops the facade of friendliness and openly declares its hostility. Our intelligence and security agencies remain woefully unprepared to deal with China’s intelligence assault, as I reveal in Enemies in the case of Katrina Leung, China’s mole in the FBI in Los Angeles, and in the case of Tai and Chi Mak, two brothers who passed valuable defense technology that has helped China’s military.

The chapter on the spies who got away reveals that either gross negligence or a Chinese spy in the highest levels of government, or both, can explain why so many recent Chinese spy cases were mishandled.
On Cuba and Venezuela:
Lopez: You have an entire chapter on Cuba — can Cuba really be a big threat (to more than the Cuban people), all things considered?

Gertz: My chapter on Cuba’s mole in the Pentagon is a detailed look at the little-known spy case of Ana Montes, one of the most senior intelligence analysts in the U.S. government who provided vast amounts of classified information to Cuba, whose government in turn then sold or traded those secrets to Russia and China. Montes was an ideological spy for Cuba who worked within the Defense Intelligence Agency and ultimately became the most important U.S. intelligence analyst in the entire government. She spied at first to oppose U.S. policy that supported the anti-Communist contra rebels in Nicaragua because Montes supported the Communist Sandinistas. She later switched her allegiance to Cuba after the Sandinistas were ousted in elections.

Cuba remains a threat because it is spreading its anti-Americanism throughout the region and is now deeply involved in backing the leftist government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which could cause tremendous harm to U.S. national security by virtue of its oil exports to the United States. Chavez has invited Cuban intelligence and security police into the country in large numbers.
On the CIA:

The problem for U.S. intelligence today is an over reliance on electronic eavesdropping and photographic intelligence, and a dramatic lack of human intelligence-gathering. As one intelligence official put it: “The problem with the CIA can be summed up in two words: “No spies.” Our intelligence agencies currently lack any inside sources in the places where we need them most: North Korea, China, Iran, Syria and other places. Thus the government has been forced to rely too much on its formidable electronic eavesdropping capabilities.

I'm ready to find a hole and crawl in it. :-)

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