March 23, 2014

NSA gets a win, Snowden a loss

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The NSA deservedly has a bit of black eye from the original Edward Snowden revelations.  But some of the work they do, while dirty, is still necessary.  China has been aggressively hacking and spying on Western servers for years.  So it's good to see that the NSA has more important work to do than tracking every domestic phone call and email ever.  It turns out the NSA has been spying and hacking China too.
WASHINGTON — Am
erican officials have long considered Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a security threat, blocking it from business deals in the United States for fear that the company would create “back doors” in its equipment that could allow the Chinese military or Beijing-backed hackers to steal corporate and government secrets.

But even as the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, classified documents show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors — directly into Huawei’s networks.

The agency pried its way into the servers in Huawei’s sealed headquarters in Shenzhen, China’s industrial heart, according to N.S.A. documents provided by the former contractor Edward J. Snowden. It obtained information about the workings of the giant routers and complex digital switches that Huawei boasts connect a third of the world’s population, and monitored communications of the company’s top executives.

One of the goals of the operation, code-named “Shotgiant,” was to find any links between Huawei and the People’s Liberation Army, one 2010 document made clear. But the plans went further: to exploit Huawei’s technology so that when the company sold equipment to other countries — including both allies and nations that avoid buying American products — the N.S.A. could roam through their computer and telephone networks to conduct surveillance and, if ordered by the president, offensive cyberoperations.
Meanwhile, this is where Snowden goes off the rails. Exposing American espionage is very different than letting the government know that it is spying on its own citizens and breaching privacy expectations to do so. Those who have argued that Snowden's actions are those of a traitor, have now had their claims justified by Snowden himself.  There is no domestic value in the U.S. of people knowing the government is spying on the Chinese.  People suspect that is the case but they don't really want to know about it. It serves no purpose for the public to know the details of covert action. But sharing that information with the world includes sharing it with China and potentially exposes an American asset.   Now they will have to come up with an alternative as the Chinese work to counter the existing abilities.  While they may or may not be successful, it is going to cost America time and money it cannot afford.  That is unacceptable,  and those who saw Snowden as a traitor initially*, are now having their opinions justified.

*Initially I was not one of those people.

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