Is Edward Snowden the first US defector of the new US-China Cold War?

A couple thoughts on the Edward Snowden NSA leaker story

1) Snowden is the first celebrity of the China-US online espionage era, if not the first high-profile US defector

2) Watching the video, I’m very interested in what Snowden said in response to the questions about why he would go to Hong Kong. Very interesting indeed that he dismissed the assertion that China and US are “enemies.”

There are conflicts between the United States government and the Chinese PRC government. but the people’s inherently, we don’t care. We trade with each other freely. We’re not at war. We’re not in armed conflict and we’re not trying to be.
We’re the largest trading partners out there for each other.

Even cyber-bystanders these days acknowledge the online Cold War that has broken out between China and the US but Snowden, who has a background in computers and intelligence, doesn’t think so. I guess his action can be seen as a message of peace. It really does bring to mind the role of the anti-nuke movements in the West during the Old Cold War, were the Soviet Union used calls for “peace” as a way to make the West defend its nuclear weapons programs.

3) Watching the #istandwithedwardsnowden hashtag take off on Twitter and calls for rallies in Snowden’s defense, its like the UK and Germany during the CND days.

4) The timing of his disclosure, around the summit between US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping, in which cybersecurity figures prominently, has not gone unnoticed by others. If Snowden is a defector (he himself described his move as “leaving it all behind” his high-profile defection coming amid the US-China summit talk would frankly be consistent with the penchant for surprise used in Chinese diplomacy and defense matters.

5) Did the Guardian choose to leak this during the Obama-Xi summit, or was the timing of the release of the news determined by Snowden? And if was by Snowden, what was driving his timing? I will be interested to see if any light is shed on this.

6) Because nothing is black and white, the issues he raises about the risks of a US surveillence state are, of course, worth consideration. What kind of controls were in place? What kind of checks and balances? The Washington Post articles suggest congress has been briefed and there is oversight.

Although Snowden says the NSA is lying to Congress: this, of course, is definitely worth an investigation.

7) Who is Snowden’s girlfriend? Is she American?

8) What is Chinese media saying? I had a glance an hour ago and saw nothing. That doesn’t mean this is a Chinese plot. There could be wariness in how to cover it. At the same time, there has to be some mention eventually and then some description of it. I’ll be curious to see how Snowden’s actions are portrayed.

US offensive cyber capabilities, The Guardian, and the new rules of the game

No big surprise here, Guardian. The White House has been hinting about this for some time. On Twitter, the pundits seems to be clutching to this blind quote:

“We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world.”

The US likes to haul China before the international court of public opinion for “doing what we do every day”, the source added.

But the most important quote comes earlier. Says a US official:

“Once humans develop the capacity to build boats, we build navies. Once you build airplanes, we build air forces.”

“As a citizen, you expect your government to plan for scenarios.”

And why shouldn’t the US? I think US citizens would be outraged to learn their government wasn’t capable of hitting back when the US is hit.

The same official says the US is ” very interested in having a discussion with our international partners about what the appropriate boundaries are.”

And that’s what Obama and Xi are doing, as I post this. Although the US no doubt has a robust hacking regime (i.e. it “hacks everyone”) it would be interesting to see how deep the links are between the NSA and Goldman Sachs, for example. Especially compared to links between PLA Unit 61398 and say, Huawei, ZTE and China’s state-owned-enterprises, or its major steel makers looking for sensitive pricing data from resources companies abroad.

It’s China’s use of cyberespionage to bolster its industries and economy that is likely forcing the US to consider offensive responses. And note the American preoccupation with rules, laws and “appropriate boundaries.”

This isn’t to say the Guardian and Washington Post scoops aren’t important. But regarding offensive cyber operations, the scoops might not be important in the way much of the West is taking them to be.

I would be really curious about the nationality of American Glenn Greenwald’s source for these “leaks” in particular. As an aside, it’s worth noting that The Guardian suffers more than most UK publications from the Athens-Rome complex with regards to the US. Who can forget the Clark County debacle of 2004?