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A case of the thief crying, 'Stop! Thief!'

By Wang Hui | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-19 07:50

Since Edward Snowden, the former US government subcontractor, stepped into the media limelight to reveal secret US surveillance programs less than two weeks ago, the war of words between the United States and China over cybersecurity has taken an abrupt turn. While watching the Snowden drama continue to unfold, the world has a chance to contemplate the US' hypocrisy and urge the country to stop peeping into other people's backyards.

In the past few months, high-ranking US officials had ratcheted up their accusations about cyberattacks and even cyber espionage allegedly by China. They claimed the Chinese government and military were behind the alleged wrongdoings. Such finger-pointing has cast a shadow on the generally rosy picture of China-US relations as it has helped whip up a new round of anti-China sentiment in the US.

China has repeatedly denied the US' accusations and the world's sole superpower has failed to provide any tenable evidence to justify its allegations. Beijing has offered to cooperate with Washington over cybersecurity issues as it, too, is a victim of cyberattacks. Yet it seems Beijing has been talking to deaf ears. Worse, with Western companies dominating the global media apparatus, Beijing's rebuttals and tangible concerns have more often than not been drowned out by the biased one-sided chorus of US politicians and the Western media, which have been loudly trumpeting a cyber threat from China.

Had it not been for the Snowden drama, the world might have remained ignorant of the fact that the US' holy-than-thou grandstanding was merely misdirection to reinforce the illusion that it was the victim not the perpetrator. According to the revelations of Snowden and a Foreign Policy website article, the US security authorities have habitually instigated cyberattacks against China in the past years.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post on June 13, Snowden made explosive claims that the US National Security Agency's controversial Prism program has for years been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland in a systematic way.

Meanwhile, a Foreign Policy website article published on June 10, entitled "Inside the NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group", reports at length about the formation and function of the Office of Tailored Access Operations, under the NSA, which is the biggest spy surveillance organization in the world.

According to the article, TAO has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating intelligence information about what is going on inside the country.

If true, both the scope and the long duration of the US hacking directed at China are beyond tolerance. Compared with the hollow US accusations against China, allegations of US hacking against China from an ex-CIA employee and a respected media outlet sound far more reliable and convincing.

Hence, the hypocrisy of Uncle Sam is self-evident: For a long time Washington has played the game of a thief crying, "Stop! Thief!".

Regrettably, there is still no sign that the US authorities are ready to learn a lesson from the on-going information collection scandal and stop wrongdoings that infringe upon the rights and privacy of other people and countries.

To continue their mud-throwing game, some in the US, former vice-president Dick Cheney most prominently have called Snowden a "traitor" and alleged that he may be a spy for China. Such a claim is clearly absurd, and it is clear that the US authorities are at their wit's end about how to deal with the chain reactions Snowden's leaks have set off.

An honest reflection on the wrongdoings and reparative measures are the right way for the US to cope with the aftereffects of the hot potato dropped by the ex-CIA analyst and a former employee working for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton at the NSA. Any attempt to shirk these responsibilities would only further erode the credibility of the US.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily


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