I’ve been reading more about the fallout of Google’s discussions with China regarding censorship and I came across an article that chilled me. To quote Shakespeare “A faint cold fear thrilled through my veins”.
In the week after Google stepped forward to challenge China’s stance on internet free speech and announced that attempts were made from within China to access data stored on Google’s servers. The Obama administration dropped China from a Priority 1 threat to Priority 2 status.
“The downgrading of intelligence gathering on China was challenged by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta after it was first proposed in interagency memorandums in October, current and former intelligence officials said.”
The decision downgrades China from “Priority 1” status, alongside Iran and North Korea, to “Priority 2,” which covers specific events such as the humanitarian crisis after the Haitian earthquake or tensions between India and Pakistan.”
As I said this chilled me.
Because priority equals funding and without appropriate funding I worry that we will not be able to prevent cyber incursions. This isn’t familiar territory nor is it stable ground. The internet is constantly growing and changing. New technology appears every day and the safety of our data, our government’s data, and the data of the companies that call us home are at stake.
The Washington Post reported that:
“Cyber-attacks from China aimed at U.S. businesses, the Pentagon and other government agencies have become commonplace, if not epidemic, in recent years. So have Beijing’s demands that Western companies collaborate in its efforts to censor political content on the Internet and snoop on the private e-mails of its citizens, several of whom have been prosecuted with e-mails supplied by Yahoo. China aims not just at eliminating the free speech and virtual free assembly inherent to the Internet but at turning it into a weapon that can be used against democrats and democratic societies.”
So this is not the time that I want my country easing off its attention to, or funding of, intelligence gathering regarding China.
Not that I don’t understand why the Obama administration is playing nice. Our country is in debt and China holds a lot of that debt. This has put us in a very messy and complicated political situation. I understand complexity but I also understand the value of information.
China wants to have its cake and eat it too.
They want all of the benefits of belonging to the modern world while still holding on to their traditional role of controlling the information their citizens see.
My hope is that someone smarter than me is looking at this problem and finding a way around the politics to do the right thing. Or, if political pressure doesn’t work then maybe peer pressure will. A lot of companies have invested heavily in China over the last ten years providing a view into different ways of doing things and a different way of life.
That is the slow course to change but it is a powerful one.