Posts Tagged ‘Snowden’

‘Edward Snowden has blood on his hands': MI6 is forced to pull spies out of hostile countries

June 14, 2015


  • Classified files could lead to identification of British and American spies
  • Spy chiefs in Russia and China have cracked one million top-secret files
  • Home Office official has accused Snowden of having ‘blood on his hands’
  • Security services have ‘had difficulties tracking terrorists’ since the leaks 

MI6 has pulled its spies out of ‘hostile countries’ and America’s intelligence agencies are on high alert after Russia and China cracked encrypted files leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The top-secret documents contain information that could lead to the identification of British and American spies, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.

A senior Home Office official accused Snowden – the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor responsible for the biggest confidential information leak in US history – of having ‘blood on his hands’ after they gained access to over one million files.

Leaked: MI6 has pulled its spies out of 'hostile countries' after Russia and China cracked encrypted files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden (pictured) which could identify its agents

Aides in British Prime Minister David Cameron's office have confirmed the top-secret material is now in the hands of spy chiefs in Moscow (President Vladimir Putin, left) and Beijing (President Xi Jinping, right)

Security services have reported increasing difficulties in tracking terrorists and dangerous criminals via email, chat rooms and social media since he exposed Western intelligence-gathering methods, the Sunday Times reports.

Now aides in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office have confirmed the top-secret material is now in the hands of spy chiefs in Moscow and Beijing.

A senior Downing Street source told the Sunday Times: ‘It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information.

‘It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information.’

A British intelligence source added: ‘Snowden has done incalculable damage. In some cases the agencies have been forced to intervene and lift their agents from operations to prevent them from being identified and killed.

John Oliver grills Ed Snowden over leaked NSA documents


nowden said he was protecting 'privacy and basic liberties' by leaking over one million confidential files and claimed America's NSA and British-based GCHQ (pictured) were spying on innocent people

nowden said he was protecting ‘privacy and basic liberties’ by leaking over one million confidential files and claimed America’s NSA and British-based GCHQ (pictured) were spying on innocent people

A senior Home Office official accused Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), of having 'blood on his hands' after Russia and China gained access to over one million files

A senior Home Office official accused Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), of having ‘blood on his hands’ after Russia and China gained access to over one million files

Security services have reported increasing difficulties in tracking since Snowden (pictured) exposed Western intelligence-gathering methods

Security services have reported increasing difficulties in tracking since Snowden (pictured) exposed Western intelligence-gathering methods

‘We know Russia and China have access to Snowden’s material and will be going through it for years to come, searching for clues to identify potential targets.’

Former GCHQ director Sir David Omand believes the leak represents a ‘huge strategic setback’ which is ‘harming to Britain, America and their NATO allies’.

Snowden has done incalculable damage. In some cases the agencies have been forced to intervene and lift their agents from operations to prevent them from being identified and killed
British intelligence source

He said the leak could spark a ‘global intelligence arms race’, adding: ‘I have no doubt whatever that programmes are being launched and money is being spent to try and catch up.

‘That’s probably true not just of China and Russia but a number of other nations who have seen some of this material to be published.

‘I am not at all surprised that people are being pulled back and operations where people are exposed are having to be shut down, at least for the moment.’

An official at British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office has played down the threat posed to agents by saying there is ‘no evidence of anyone being harmed’.

Snowden fled the United States for Moscow in 2013 after he released 1.7 million secret documents from Western intelligence agencies to the media – and has remained under the protection of President Vladimir Putin’s regime ever since.

Snowden said he was protecting ‘privacy and basic liberties’ and claimed America’s NSA and British-based GCHQ were carrying out massive surveillance programmes which target millions of innocent people.

Anonymous artists erect Snowden statue in New York park


Edward Snowden is hailed as a hero by some but a British intelligence source has accused him of doing 'incalculable damage'

Edward Snowden is hailed as a hero by some but a British intelligence source has accused him of doing ‘incalculable damage’

David Miranda (left) the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was seized at Heathrow in 2013 in possession of 58,000 'highly classified' intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow

David Miranda (left) the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was seized at Heathrow in 2013 in possession of 58,000 ‘highly classified’ intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow

Another intelligence source in the United States said the damage done by Snowden was ‘far greater than what has been admitted’.

It is unclear whether Snowden voluntarily handed over the secret documents to remain in Hong Kong and Moscow, or whether the countries stole his data.

But a senior Home Office source said: ‘Why do you think Snowden ended up in Russia?

‘Putin didn’t give him asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted.’

David Miranda, the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was seized at Heathrow in 2013 in possession of 58,000 ‘highly classified’ intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow.

During the ensuing court hearing Oliver Robbins, then deputy national security adviser in the Cabinet Office, said that the release of the information ‘would do serious damage to UK national security, and ultimately put lives at risk’.

Eventually the High Court ruled there was ‘compelling evidence’ that stopping Miranda was ‘imperative in the interests of national security’ and publishing the documents would endanger lives.

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Britain Pulls Spies Out of Russia, China — “Our agents and assets being targeted” as a Result of Snowden, Cyber Hacking, Leaks

June 14, 2015

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has pulled out agents from live operations in “hostile countries” after Russia and China cracked top-secret information contained in files leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the Sunday Times reported.

Security service MI6, which operates overseas and is tasked with defending British interests, has removed agents from certain countries, the newspaper said, citing unnamed officials at the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Home Office (interior ministry) and security services.

Snowden downloaded more than 1.7 million secret files from security agencies in the United States and Britain in 2013, and leaked details about mass surveillance of phone and internet communications.

The United States wants Snowden to stand trial after he leaked classified documents, fled the country and was eventually granted asylum in Moscow in 2013.

He went to Russia via Hong Kong, and although he claimed in 2013 that the encrypted files remained secure, Britain believed both Russia and China had cracked documents which contain details that could allow British and American spies to be identified, the newspaper said, citing officials.

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden appears live via video during a student organized world affairs conference at the Upper Canada College private high school in Toronto, February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Snowden had done a huge amount of damage to the West’s ability to protect its citizens.

“As to the specific allegations this morning, we never comment on operational intelligence matters so I’m not going to talk about what we have or haven’t done in order to mitigate the effect of the Snowden revelations, but nobody should be in any doubt that Edward Snowden has caused immense damage,” he told Sky News.

An official at Cameron’s office was quoted, however, as saying that there was “no evidence of anyone being harmed.” A spokeswoman at Cameron’s office declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

A Home Office source told the newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not grant Snowden asylum for nothing.

“His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted,” the source said.

A British intelligence source said Snowden had done “incalculable damage”.

“In some cases the agencies have been forced to intervene and lift their agents from operations to stop them being identified and killed,” the source was quoted as saying.

British security agencies declined to comment.

The Russian and Chinese governments were not immediately available for comment.


The revelations about the impact of Snowden on intelligence operations comes days after Britain’s terrorism law watchdog said the rules governing the security services’ abilities to spy on the public needed to be overhauled.

Conservative lawmaker and former minister Andrew Mitchell said the timing of the report was “no accident”.

“There is a big debate going on,” he told BBC radio. “We are going to have legislation bought back to parliament (…) about the way in which individual liberty and privacy is invaded in the interest of collective national security.

“That’s a debate we certainly need to have.”

Cameron has promised a swathe of new security measures, including more powers to monitor Briton’s communications and online activity in what critics have dubbed a “snoopers’ charter”.

Britain’s terrorism laws reviewer David Anderson said on Thursday the current system was “undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable”.

He called for new safeguards, including judges not ministers approving warrants for intrusive surveillance, and said there needed to be a compelling case for any extensions of powers.

(Reporting By Costas Pitas and Paul Sandle; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Polina Devitt; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalind Russell)

U.S. Government Reveals “Second Data Breach” By Chinese Hackers — Obama Considers Sanctions

June 13, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deeply personal information submitted by U.S. intelligence and military personnel for security clearances – mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests, bankruptcies and more – is in the hands of hackers linked to China, officials say.

In describing a cyberbreach of federal records dramatically worse than first acknowledged, authorities point to Standard Form 86, which applicants are required to complete. Applicants also must list contacts and relatives, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion. Both the applicant’s Social Security number and that of his or her cohabitant are required.

In a statement, the White House said that on June 8, investigators concluded there was “a high degree of confidence that … systems containing information related to the background investigations of current, former and prospective federal government employees, and those for whom a federal background investigation was conducted, may have been exfiltrated.”

“This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” said Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official. “That makes it very hard for any of those people to function as an intelligence officer. The database also tells the Chinese an enormous amount of information about almost everyone with a security clearance. That’s a gold mine. It helps you approach and recruit spies.”

The Office of Personnel Management, which was the target of the hack, did not respond to requests for comment. OPM spokesman Samuel Schumach and Jackie Koszczuk, the director of communications, have consistently said there was no evidence that security clearance information had been compromised.

The White House statement said the hack into the security clearance database was separate from the breach of federal personnel data announced last week – a breach that is itself appearing far worse than first believed. It could not be learned whether the security database breach happened when an OPM contractor was hacked in 2013, an attack that was discovered last year. Members of Congress received classified briefings about that breach in September, but there was no public mention of security clearance information being exposed.

Nearly all of the millions of security clearance holders, including some CIA, National Security Agency and military special operations personnel, are potentially exposed in the security clearance breach, the officials said. More than 4 million people had been investigated for a security clearance as of October 2014, according to government records.

Regarding the hack of standard personnel records announced last week, two people briefed on the investigation disclosed Friday that as many as 14 million current and former civilian U.S. government employees have had their information exposed to hackers, a far higher figure than the 4 million the Obama administration initially disclosed.

American officials have said that cybertheft originated in China and that they suspect espionage by the Chinese government, which has denied any involvement.

The newer estimate puts the number of compromised records between 9 million and 14 million going back to the 1980s, said one congressional official and one former U.S. official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because information disclosed in the confidential briefings includes classified details of the investigation.

There are about 2.6 million executive branch civilians, so the majority of the records exposed relate to former employees. Contractor information also has been stolen, officials said. The data in the hack revealed last week include the records of most federal civilian employees, though not members of Congress and their staffs, members of the military or staff of the intelligence agencies.

On Thursday, a major union said it believes the hackers stole Social Security numbers, military records and veterans’ status information, addresses, birth dates, job and pay histories; health insurance, life insurance and pension information; and age, gender and race data.

The personnel records would provide a foreign government an extraordinary roadmap to blackmail, impersonate or otherwise exploit federal employees in an effort to gain access to U.S. secrets -or entry into government computer networks.

Outside experts were pointing to the breaches as a blistering indictment of the U.S. government’s ability to secure its own data two years after a National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, was able to steal tens of thousands of the agency’s most sensitive documents.

After the Snowden revelations about government surveillance, it became more difficult for the federal government to hire talented younger people into sensitive jobs, particularly at intelligence agencies, said Evan Lesser, managing director of, a website that matches security-clearance holders to available slots.

“Now, if you get a job with the government, your own personal information may not be secure,” he said. “This is going to multiply the government’s hiring problems many times.”

The Social Security numbers were not encrypted, the American Federation of Government Employees said, calling that “an abysmal failure on the part of the agency to guard data that has been entrusted to it by the federal workforce.”

“Unencrypted information of this kind this is disgraceful – it really is disgraceful,” Brenner said. “We’ve had wakeup calls now for 20 years or more, and we keep hitting the snooze button.”

The OPM’s Schumach would not address how the data was protected or specifics of the information that might have been compromised, but said, “Today’s adversaries are sophisticated enough that encryption alone does not guarantee protection.” OPM is nonetheless increasing its use of encryption, he said.

The Obama administration had acknowledged that up to 4.2 million current and former employees whose information resides in the Office of Personnel Management server are affected by the December cyberbreach, but it had been vague about exactly what was taken.

J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a letter Thursday to OPM director Katherine Archuleta that based on incomplete information OPM provided to the union, “the hackers are now in possession of all personnel data for every federal employee, every federal retiree and up to 1 million former federal employees.”

Another federal employee group, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said Friday that “at this point, we believe AFGE’s assessment of the breach is overstated.” It called on the OPM to provide more information.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers, one-time chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said last week that he believes China will use the recently stolen information for “the mother of all spear-phishing attacks.”

Spear-phishing is a technique under which hackers send emails designed to appear legitimate so that users open them and load spyware onto their networks.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.


WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday revealed that hackers had breached a second computer system at the Office of Personnel Management, and said that President Obama was considering financial sanctions against the attackers who gained access to the files of millions of federal workers.


But on Friday, officials said they believed that a separate computer system at the agency was breached by the same hackers, putting at risk not only data about the federal employees, but also information about friends, family members and associates that could number millions more. Officials said that the second system contained files related to intelligence officials working for the F.B.I., defense contractors and other government agencies.


A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that investigators became aware of the second intrusion while assessing the damage from the first breach. The official said the information apparently taken in the second breach appeared not to be limited to federal employees.

The database contains copies of what is known as Standard Form 86, a questionnaire filled out by applicants for national security positions. The 127-page form can include medical data, including information on treatment or hospitalization for “an emotional or mental health condition.”

In addition, the form asks for detailed information on close relatives and “people who know you well.” The form has spaces for each contact’s home or work address, email address, phone number and other information.

The personnel office has said that the number of federal employees and applicants affected could rise beyond the four million already reported. If the relatives and close contacts are included, the total number of people affected could be several times as high, officials said.

At the White House, officials said that Mr. Obama was weighing the use of an executive order he signed in April that allows the Treasury secretary to impose sanctions on individuals or groups that engage in malicious cyberattacks, or people who benefit from them.

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China accuses US of ‘slander’ over hacking accusations

June 5, 2015


Global Times, a Chinese state newspaper, refutes that Chinese nationals are behind latest US security breach that saw 4m government employees’ details stolen

At a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs press briefing on Friday, new reports pointing to China were labelled as

At a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs press briefing on Friday, new reports pointing to China were labelled as “irresponsible” Photo: Blend Images / Alamy

A Chinese state newspaper has accused the American media of “slander” over suggestions that China is behind a massive US government data hack that affected 4 million people.

Following the announcement on Thursday that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) database had been attacked, Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it was thought to have originated in China. The claim was subsequently reported in the American media.

In response, a popular Chinese state-run newspaper, The Global Times, published a editorial on Thursday, entitled “Four million US government workers hit by data breach, China was blamed without any hesitation”, in a defensive response to what Chinese officials are calling “irresponsible” allegations.

The editorial went on to say: “Although the investigation has just begun, American investigators believe that ‘they can trace the breach to the Chinese government’…However, American officials from the OPM who reported this case cannot be sure who is responsible.”

It went on to say The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal had been to report that Chinese hackers were responsible for the breach.

“In fact, it is not the first time that the American media and institutions blame China for internet security [breaches]. However, no evidence has been presented so far.”

In July 2014, there were reports that Chinese nationals had broken into the computer networks of the United States government agency that houses the personal information of all federal employees.

At a Chinese ministry of foreign affairs press briefing on Friday, new reports pointing to China were labelled as “irresponsible”.

“Cyber attacks are generally anonymous and conducted across borders and their origins are hard to trace,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. “Not to carry out a deep investigation and keep using words such as ‘possible’ is irresponsible and unscientific,” reported Reuters.

Gao Cheng, the deputy researcher from National Institute of International Strategy of China Academy of Social Sciences, posted on his Weibo microblog on Friday:

“I can only say, if it was not done by China, the US just slandered China viciously. If it was done by China, then good job! Years ago, before Snowden [came forward]…the US cried ‘stop thief’ while acting a thief itself, it slandered China on the issue of cyber attacks while standing on the high moral ground.”


Human rights groups attack China draft security law

May 30, 2015
Protesters holding banners in support of greater media freedom confront police officers (L) near the headquarters of Nanfang Media in Guangzhou, on January 10, 2013. The row at the popular liberal paper, which had an article urging greater rights protection replaced with one praising the ruling communist party, has seen demonstrators mass outside its headquarters in the southern city of Guangzhou. AFP PHOTO©AFP

International human rights groups have slammed China’s new draft national security law for criminalising free speech and religious practices while granting the ruling Communist party sweeping powers to punish peaceful critics and dissenters.

The vaguely worded draft law “includes a broad and ill-defined definition of ‘national security’, and provisions that would allow prosecution of dissenting views, religious beliefs, information online, and challenges to China’s ‘cyber sovereignty’,” said Hong Kong-based group China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

Under the new law, crimes that violate national security would include “negative cultural penetration”, threats to “sustainable economic and social development” and violations of “national internet sovereignty”.

It also stipulates “obligations to maintain national security” for citizens and organisations, both of which could be held legally accountable if they failed to meet obligations such as providing “relevant data, information or technical support” to state security, public security and the military.

“Under this law, police would be allowed to charge anybody who refuses to become a police informant or who are seen as associated with those targeted by police, as posing threats to national security,” CHRD said.

China’s secret police and domestic security services already regularly target peaceful critics of the regime with a range of spurious charges and commit basic human rights abuses.

International rights groups say President Xi Jinping’s administration has orchestrated the most strident crackdown on civil society since the early 1990s.

They have documented nearly 1,000 people who were arbitrarily detained for their political views in 2014, nearly the same number as in the previous two years combined.

In one example, prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was detained a year ago and will soon be charged for making critical remarks on social media about China’s policies towards ethnic minorities and for speaking sarcastically about two senior Communist party officials, according to an indictment circulated this week and confirmed by Mr Pu’s lawyer.

He faces charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for posting messages on his microblog account that “openly insulted others”. His actions “damaged social order” and he “should be held criminally responsible,” according to the indictment.

If convicted, Mr Pu faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The charges facing Mr Pu and the draft law make it clear that anyone who offends senior individuals in the party hierarchy can be persecuted and handed long sentences for merely speaking their minds.

“The vague list of restrictions in the name of national security in this draft will make it impossible for people to know what behaviour is actually prohibited and will allow the authorities to prosecute anyone who essentially crosses their ever moving line of ‘illegal activities’,” said William Nee, China researcher for Amnesty International. “It is as much to do with protecting the Communist party and punishing those that criticise the leadership as addressing national security.”

The draft law is open for public comments until June 5 but is likely to be adopted by China’s rubber stamp parliament with few significant changes, according to rights groups.

Earlier this month, the government also released a draft law on “management of foreign non-governmental organisations” that rights groups say would constitute a terrible blow to Chinese civil society and international engagement.

If implemented, this law would require international NGOs to accept a high level of oversight from Chinese security services and government organs.

“The spirit and substantive provisions of the [foreign NGO law] draft are consistent with the intensifying trend of broadened crackdowns on domestic civil society since President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2013,” rights group Human Rights in China said.



China’s New National Security Law: Elevate the Party and Stifle Dissent

May 30, 2015


A central agency would be in charge of all security matters, solidifying President Xi Jinping’s authority in those areas.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s state secrets are set to be more effectively secured with a far-reaching five-year state-run cybersecurity program, announced against the ever-growing cyber confrontation with the US, Chinese official media reports on Thursday.

The plan is expected to refocus software purchase of the national government agencies and institutions to domestically-developed products, a senior official of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology revealed on Thursday, as cited by the official China Daily.

State-owned enterprises, financial institutions and government departments should improve software security, said Chen Wei, the director of the ministry’s software bureau. Chen has provided no further details.

“We are expecting to see breakthroughs in advanced domestic software development within the next five years,” Chen said.

READ MORE: Watch out: Chinese Army bans wearable gadgets citing security concerns

China’s concern with cyber security was given a powerful boost following the revelations of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about universal surveillance capabilities of the US intelligence agencies undertaking questionable practices to intercept all kind of data over the World Wide Web and straddle international communication lines.

American intelligence has long since forced US high-tech and IT corporations to cooperate with the national spy agencies. This cooperation enabled American intelligence to pre-install backdoors and surveillance codes to the US-made hardware sold worldwide.

READ MORE: Malware masterplan: NSA targeted Google & Samsung app stores to harvest data

Taking this into consideration, the Chinese government has recently excluded from the state-approved purchase list of the world’s leading technology products, many of them American, and replacing them with domestic alternatives.

A draft national security law posted online in China earlier in May stipulated the utmost necessity for national cyberspace “sovereignty,” mentioning “harmful moral standards” practiced by unnamed powers.


A police officer blocks photos from being taken outside Zhongnanhai, the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China, in Beijing last year.

A police officer blocks photos from being taken outside Zhongnanhai, the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China, in Beijing last year.  Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images


Chinese Security Laws Elevate the Party and Stifle Dissent. Mao Would Approve.

By Edward Wong
The New York Times

BEIJING — China’s new national security law, released in draft form this month, has little to say about such traditional security matters as military power, counterespionage or defending the nation’s borders.

Instead, to the surprise and alarm of many people here, it reads more like a Communist Party ideology paper and a call to arms aimed at defending the party’s grip on power. The law, together with two other recently published draft laws, constitutes the most expansive articulation yet of President Xi Jinping’s vision of national security, and the widest interpretation of threats to the Communist Party and the state since the Mao era.

Analysts say the laws are aimed at giving the security forces and courts greater leeway in muzzling Chinese civil society and corralling the influence of Western institutions and ideas, which Mr. Xi views as a threat.

Deploying the kind of retro-nationalist language that has become standard fare under Mr. Xi, the national security law says security must be maintained in all aspects of society, from culture to education to technology, “to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

“This draft focuses on politics, ideology and culture,” said Zhang Xuezhong, a civil rights lawyer and former law professor at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai.

Zhang Xuezhong, a professor of law, was recently suspended from teaching at his university in Shanghai. Among Zhang’s offenses was writing articles that urge the Chinese Communist Party to respect the country’s constitution. Photo crfedit Frank Langfitt NPR

The two other draft laws — also related to what might be described as ideological security — are a so-called counterterrorism law and one aimed at controlling the activities of foreign nongovernmental organizations and their Chinese partners.

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American Intelligence and Getting past the zero-sum game online

April 3, 2015


The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade in 2013. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

By Michael V. Hayden
The Washington Post

As director of the National Security Agency and then the Central Intelligence Agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, I fought to provide our intelligence officers with every possible advantage in their work to detect and confront threats from our enemies.

We were entering a new kind of conflict. I had grown to professional maturity in an era in which it was NATO vs. the Soviet Union, and our enemy — with its tank divisions in Eastern Europe and intercontinental ballistic missile silos in our sights — was easy to find, though hard to defeat. Today, our enemies are relatively easy to defeat, but they often are damnably difficult to find. Hence the need to create timely, actionable — even exquisite — intelligence.

In our efforts, the genius and innovation of American business has been essential. The United States enjoys a number of advantages, such as world-class information-technology companies, a mastery of the challenges and opportunities of big data and the reality that much of the world’s Internet traffic is serviced by U.S. companies. These things have truly made a difference, but sometimes less can be more. Here a little bit of history might be instructive.

In the late 20th century, many viewed the world as a zero-sum game. Any U.S. loss of competitive advantage was our adversary’s gain, and our security, the argument went, was correspondingly weakened as well.

Then, a key technology battleground was a measure of raw computing power known as “MTOPS” — or millions of theoretical operations per second. Successive administrations tried to protect this assumed U.S. security advantage by blocking exports of computers above a certain MTOPS limit to any but our closest allies. The NSA was always an important player in this discussion. After all, in the business of making and breaking codes, advantages in computing power were often decisive. The export barrier was seen as the NSA’s friend.

By the time I became NSA director in the late 1990s, however, the calculation was no longer that simple. We still wanted an MTOPS advantage, of course, but we were fast realizing that our preferred limits were undermining the global competitiveness of the U.S. computer industry — the very industry on which we relied for our success. It was becoming clear that the overall health of that industry was more important than any MTOPS advantage against a specific target country. We still insisted on limits with regard to places such as Cuba and North Korea, but we became far more forgiving elsewhere.

This, of course, had a powerful, positive commercial impact, but the NSA didn’t flip its position for commercial reasons. We did it for security reasons. On balance, this change made us stronger, not weaker, over the long haul, since retarding exports would inevitably retard the technological progress that was both our economic and our security lifeblood.

That early lesson has caused me to continue to challenge arguments that technological protectionism furthers national security. It might, but then again, it could have the opposite effect if it freezes development, alienates allies, feeds distrust or invites the creation of similar barriers abroad. I would recommend these broader considerations to those in the U.S. security enterprise with responsibility for evaluating these trade-offs today.

In a perverse way, as the saying goes, what goes around comes around. Precedents we set will be followed — or exploited — by others in an economic system that becomes more globalized and hence more interdependent by the day. Already others point to U.S. activities to justify their own, often nefarious, efforts. Witness the Chinese trying to create moral and legal equivalency between legitimate U.S. intelligence and their massive theft of intellectual property, or their placement of newly minted restrictions on U.S. IT firms. One wonders what the Russias and Chinas of the world will demand if U.S.-based firms are forbidden to create encryption schemes inaccessible to themselves or the government. Beyond the realm of speculation, the Chinese company Alibaba has announced plans to open a cloud data center in the United States. How will we feel when a Chinese court orders Alibaba to send data on Americans back to China, citing our own behavior as justification?

These are serious, long-term questions requiring serious, strategic answers. Possible second- and third-order effects — such as generating a stampede toward data localization or a Balkanized Internet — need to be considered alongside a still-important calculus based on more transient, tactical advantage.

U.S. intelligence was given a black eye, unfairly for the most part, by l’Affaire Snowden. It has conducted its business honorably, with restraint and oversight — perhaps more than any other country. But that has been little noted.

Today’s issues give the United States a chance to demonstrate to the world that its tough and powerful intelligence services understand what is at stake and intend to join the public discussion on how to balance the truly important privacy and security questions before us and, more important, take meaningful steps to make us stronger.

Michael V. Hayden is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security and risk management advisory firm with clients in the technology sector. He was director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005 and the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009.


China’s new regulations for foreign tech companies — Is China using its tech companies to spy on everyone else?

January 31, 2015



The Chinese government has introduced new regulations for foreign technology companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks.

According to The New York Times, the new rules, outlined in a 22-page document, require foreign tech companies to turn over source code, submit to audits, and build back doors into hardware and software.

However, a letter sent to a top-level Community Party cybersecurity committee in China from foreign business groups, which included the US Chamber of Commerce, has objected to the new policies, The New York Times said.

The foreign business groups expressed that such policies could potentially lead to a broader “cybersecurity review regime” by the Chinese government, which will assess the “security and controllability” of hardware, software, and technology services sold in China.

Apple recently accepted the Chinese government’s inspection demands, and will allow the government to conduct network safety evaluations on its products, mainly because China is one of the biggest markets for the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Latest news on Asia

The new regulations add to the escalating tension over questions about whether the Chinese government has been using tech companies to spy on foreign countries.

Meanwhile, Chinese telecom and internet giant Huawei has been barred by both the US and Australian governments from involvement in any broadband projects over concerns about the company’s alleged links to the Chinese government.

Huawei’s chief executive Ren Zhengfei has denied the company‘s involvement in any espionage.

In separate news, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government slammed Alibaba for failing to pay enough attention to cracking down on the sale of counterfeit merchandise, shady merchants, and misleading promotions.The Chinese government’s stance was made clear in a report released by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), which accused the company of allowing its merchants to operate without a licence, run unauthorised stores, and sell fake name-brand items.

However, Alibaba Group’s executive vice chairman Joe Tsai has questioned the accuracy of the report, saying its findings were the result of flawed methodology.

“Yesterday, a so-called ‘whitepaper’ was posted on the SAIC website that specifically identified Alibaba and referred to a meeting between Alibaba and the regulators in July last year,” said Tsai. “We believe the flawed approach taken in the report, and the tactic of releasing a so-called ‘whitepaper’ specifically targeting us, was so unfair that we felt compelled to take the extraordinary step of preparing a formal complaint to the SAIC.”

Alibaba recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft to strengthen its anti-counterfeit measures on two of its e-commerce platforms, Taobao marketplace and

Additionally, a report by US security company Mandiant last year claimed that China was behind an “overwhelming” percentage of cyberattacks on US organisations and companies. The US had also said that hackers based in China have targeted the country’s government and corporate computer networks, in order to steal sensitive data.

In fact, Huawei was one company that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on, according to leaked documents by former US government contractor Edward Snowden. The documents said that the NSA had conducted surveillance on Huawei’s networks, email archives, and other communications between senior executives.

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi is currently being investigated by the privacy authority of the Hong Kong Administrative Region government for allegedly sending user information without consent back to servers in mainland China.

Apple recently accepted the Chinese government’s inspection demands, and will allow the government to conduct network safety evaluations on its products, mainly because China is one of the biggest markets for the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Tsai said that the company has a broad range of measures to prevent counterfeit and pirated goods from being sold on its marketplaces, and that it is devoting more resources to the “fight against fakes”.

“The issues of counterfeiting and IP protections are a part of the problems in a growing economy today, whether it is online or offline,” he said.

“We have a zero tolerance policy towards counterfeits on our platform because the health and integrity of our marketplaces depend on consumer trust.

“When you step back and look at our overall efforts to combat illicit activities, our track record is clear. We are certainly not perfect, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” he said. “In the global e-commerce marketplace, there will always be people who seek to conduct illicit activities, and like all global companies in our industry, we must continue to do everything we can to stop these activities.”

He also acknowledged the ubiquitous nature of selling pirated goods online, but defended the company’s work to weed them out of its sites.



A paramilitary policeman prepares for a national flag-lowering ceremony in front of a portrait of the late chairman Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, August 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

New York Times Editorial

Under the guise of improving security, the Chinese government is clamping down on technology companies and further limiting the access its citizens have to information that is not sanitized by the Communist Party. These moves will hurt the Chinese economy and create a major rift between China and the rest of the world.

The government of President Xi Jinping has taken a series of steps recently that have unnerved businesses, human rights organizations and governments around the world. This week, for example, American and other foreign business groups sent a letter to Mr. Xi protesting new policies that require companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over their source code to the government and to create ways for security officials to monitor and control those devices. Industry executives expect similar policies to be enacted for other sectors of the Chinese economy, making it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for foreign technology vendors to sell their products to Chinese customers.

Chinese officials have also proposed a law, purportedly to fight terrorism, that would require technology companies to provide the government with the means to monitor all communications over their systems in China, including those that are encrypted. And in recent weeks, the authorities have made it nearly impossible for Internet users to employ virtual private networks that allow people to evade the government filters and restrictions collectively known as the Great Firewall. Dissidents, researchers, businesses and professionals have long used V.P.N.s to access information beyond China’s borders, and the government previously seemed to tolerate the practice.

With these new moves, Chinese leaders are trying to increase government control over communications in order to suppress dissent. And they are trying to promote Chinese technology businesses at the expense of foreign companies. That is not entirely surprising. Mr. Xi has previously made clear that he considers the free flow of information on the Internet a threat to the Communist Party. And he has said that he considers domestic control over technology a matter of “national economic security, defense security and other aspects of security.”

But this push for greater control could cost China dearly. The country’s businesses and professionals say it has become increasingly difficult for them to communicate with customers and suppliers abroad or to obtain scientific data and research from the rest of the world. Executives at Chinese banks are reportedly worried that they will have to rely on substandard domestic computer equipment that could make their systems more vulnerable to hacking by criminals, foreign rivals and others.

Foreign businesses and governments are rightly saying these new policies amount to protectionism. The changes also seem to make a joke of China’s commitment to abide by global trading rules established by the World Trade Organization and of its stated desire to deepen trade and investment ties with the United States and other countries. Officials from China and the United States are negotiating a bilateral investment treaty that is supposed to make it easier for companies from each country to do business in the other nation. American officials should use those talks to put China on notice that its latest security policies are wrongheaded and unacceptable.

Mr. Xi cannot expect the United States or any other country to engage in negotiations to liberalize trade and investment with his country while his government is actively making it impossible for foreign businesses to survive there.

China calls Snowden’s stealth jet hack accusations ‘groundless’

January 19, 2015

BEIJING Mon Jan 19, 2015 5:10am EST

(Reuters) – China dismissed accusations it stole F-35 stealth fighter plans as groundless on Monday, after documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on a cyber attack were published by a German magazine.

The Pentagon has previously acknowledged that hackers had targeted sensitive data for defense programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but stopped short of publicly blaming China for the F-35 breach.

Defense experts say that China’s home-grown stealth jets had design elements resembling the F-35.


 The Pentagon and the jet’s builder, Lockheed Martin Corp, had said no classified information was taken during the cyber intrusion.

German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday published a cache of Snowden documents, including a top secret U.S. government presentation that said China stole “many terabytes” of data on the F-35 program, including radar designs and engine schematics.

“The so-called evidence that has been used to launch groundless accusations against China is completely unjustified,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

Hong said the “complex nature” of cyber attacks makes it difficult to pinpoint the relevant attacker, adding that China wanted to work with other countries to prevent hacking.

“According to the materials presented by the relevant person, some countries themselves have disgraceful records on cyber security,” Hong added.

Snowden’s 2013 revelations of the broad reach of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying program sparked international outrage.

Lockheed Martin is producing the F-35 for the U.S. military and allies in a $399 billion project, the world’s most expensive weapons program.

It is intended to deliver advanced stealth capabilities, improved manoeuvrability and high-tech sensors, but the program has struggled with delays and budget overruns.

China unveiled its highly anticipated J-31 twin-engine fighter jet at an air show late last year in a show of muscle during a visit to the country by U.S. President Barack Obama.

China’s J-31

The aircraft’s maker, Aviation Industry Corp of China, caused a stir when its president, Lin Zuoming, said the jet could “take down” the F-35.

President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen the country’s 2.3 million-strong armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in the region, particularly in the South China and East China seas.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)


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