Obama Administration Indicts Chinese State Hackers as Another NSA Revelation is Disclosed

by lizard

Oh American Government, sometimes you are simply hilarious, like when you indict 5 members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for economic espionage:

By indicting members of the People’s Liberation Army’s most famous cyberwarfare operation, called Unit 61398 but known among hackers by the moniker “Comment Crew,” the Obama administration is now using the legal system to make a case it has previously confined to classified briefings: that the Chinese military leadership is behind an enormous organized campaign to steal American intellectual property and designs for its own profit.

For two years now, President Obama and his aides have declared that when the United States spies on China, its goals are sharply different from those of the Chinese who engage in espionage. In public speeches and private conversations with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, Mr. Obama has argued that it is far more pernicious to use the intelligence instruments of the state for commercial competitive advantage.

Obama can flap those deceitful lips all he wants, but actions speak louder than words. If Obama says using intelligence instruments of the state for commercial competitive advantage is pernicious, then how in the hell is he going to explain this:

The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

This excerpt comes from an article put out this morning by First Look, via The Intercept. It’s a major story and it will be interesting to see how people respond to this latest disclosure of the rampant abuses perpetrated by the NSA (fun fact: Oprah and Bill Gates both have houses in the Bahamas) Wikileaks and Pando have already taken issue with the editorial decision by The Intercept to withhold the name of another country getting the full suck from the NSA, but I doubt that criticism will get much traction. What I’m more interested in is how the blatant hypocrisy will be explained by the Obama administration.

And if the NSA has the capability to do this to other countries, then one has to wonder to what extent this could be done in the States.


  1. lizard19

    Wired has a good article, titled U.S. Indictment of Chinese Hackers Could Be Awkward for the NSA:

    Last September, a story based on information from Snowden said that the NSA recently hacked into the Brazilian oil firm Petrobras. Just two months ago, another Snowden leak revealed the NSA had hacked Chinese networking company Huawei to steal source code. And those are just two of a slew of reports over the last year that the NSA and its allies have hacked foreign governments and occasionally private sector targets to gather intelligence. The attacks may have happened as many as 231 times in 2011 alone.

    In fact, NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ last week was hit by a legal complaint from Privacy International, which accused the UK agency of illegally using malware to spy on its targets, including British citizens.

    “Hacking a computer is a crime,” says Privacy International deputy director Eric King, who also teaches law at the London School of Economics.1 “There are real questions about whether these agencies’ employees are independently criminally liable. If China wants to start prosecuting those who hack their infrastructure, NSA employees could be arrested on the exact same legal justifications as the Chinese who have been put on the FBI’s most-wanted list.”

  2. JC

    Max will get this all sorted out:

    “The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the American ambassador to China for an explanation, urging him to drop all charges against China’s military officers. The meeting between Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang and US Ambassador Max Baucus took place on Monday night, reported Xinhua.

    Depending on further developments, China “will take further action on the so-called charges by the United States,” Zheng told Baucus.

    “The Chinese government and military and its associated personnel have never conducted or participated in the theft of trade secrets over the internet,” Zheng reportedly told Baucus as quoted by Xinhua.

    America’s attitude to internet security is “overbearing and hypocritical,” Zheng told Baucus, urging the US to finally give a clear explanation on multiple reports that America’s National Security Agency is spying after Chinese government, businesses, universities and individuals.”

    I’m sure Baucus will do a fine job getting this all fixed…

  3. JC

    Actually, I think that Holder’s actions are more about the build up of the propaganda war in Asia against the chinese, drawing the attention away from what Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping’s summit is accomplishing right now. It’s pretty historic, compared to the deterioration between our relationships with China and Russia:

    “A specter is haunting Washington, an unnerving vision of a Sino-Russian alliance wedded to an expansive symbiosis of trade and commerce across much of the Eurasian land mass – at the expense of the United States.

    And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well…

    This week should provide the first real fireworks in the celebration of a new Eurasian century-in-the-making with Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting Xi in Shanghai this Tuesday and Wednesday. You remember “Pipelineistan,” all those crucial oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing Eurasia that make up the true circulatory system for the life of the region. Now, it looks like the ultimate Pipelineistan deal, worth $1 trillion and 10 years in the making, will be inked as well. In it, the giant, state-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom will agree to supply the giant state-controlled China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) with 3.75 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day for no less than 30 years, starting in 2018. That’s the equivalent of a quarter of Russia’s massive gas exports to all of Europe…

    Gazprom may still collect the bulk of its profits from Europe, but Asia could turn out to be its Everest. “>

    Yep, them sanctions against Russia are proving real effective… in pushing them to aggressively develop trade and partnership agreements with China. And what’s Baucus got to show for his time in China? Being the messenger boy to Obama about how pissed the Chinese are at us. He can kiss goodbye, getting the Chinese to agree to the TPP.

  1. 1 From Arab Spring to World War | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] to top things off, the clear US involvement in fomenting unrest in Ukraine, combined with those oddly timed indictments of Chinese state hackers seems to be pushing Russia into creating stronger alliances with China. At Moon of Alabama, b has a […]




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