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Intelligence What do we know, need to know, and how do we get there?

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Old 07-21-2008   #1
Jedburgh
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Default The Chinese Espionage Threat

TimesOnline, 20 Jul 08: Gordon Brown aide a victim of honeytrap operation by Chinese agents
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.....Downing Street yesterday confirmed that a member of the prime minister’s office had lost a BlackBerry during an evening event on the January visit to China. However, it played down the affair, stating that an investigation had established that there was “no compromise to security”.

Last week it emerged that US intelligence and security officials were debating whether to warn business people and other travellers heading to the Beijing Olympics about the dangers posed by Chinese computer hackers.

Joel Brenner, the US government’s top counter-intelligence official, warned: “So many people are going to the Olympics and are going to get electronically undressed.”
JF's China Brief, 17 Jul 08: The Evolution of Espionage: Beijing’s Red Spider Web
Quote:
.....What we know thus far about China’s espionage activities against U.S. weapons laboratories and other technology development programs is cause enough for concern. The U.S. intelligence community’s official damage assessment of Chinese espionage targeting America’s nuclear technology secrets tells us this much:

What we know:

• China obtained by espionage classified U.S. nuclear weapons information that probably accelerated its program to develop future nuclear weapons. This collection program allowed China to focus successfully on critical paths and avoid less promising approaches to nuclear weapon designs.
• China obtained at least basic design information on several modern U.S. nuclear reentry vehicles, including the Trident II (W88).
• China also obtained information on a variety of U.S. weapon design concepts and weaponization features, including those of the neutron bomb.

What we don’t know:

• We cannot determine the full extent of weapon information obtained. For example, we do not know whether any weapon design documentation or blueprints were acquired.
• We believe it is more likely that the Chinese used U.S. design information to inform their own program than to replicate U.S. weapon designs.

Yet there is much more to China’s quest for U.S. technology. China has obtained a major advantage that the former KGB did not enjoy during the Cold War: unprecedented access to American academic institutions and industry.....
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Old 07-21-2008   #2
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In a nation that is up in arms about the NSA tapping into every single conversation and data packet people are pretty sanguine about going to China. China, a totalitarian communist regime with a state owned/controlled telephone and data network with some of the most sophisticated snooping technologies on the planet. Go ahead and complain about limited snooping in the US by the NSA with over sight, and then go to China for vacation. I'll never understand.
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Old 07-21-2008   #3
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Once upon a time, someone translated a Mossad mnemonic for the espionage recruiting basic approaches; it was three words (alliterative in Hebrew) and I'd swear one of them was sex...

I think the bigger story than "OMG! China does espionage!" is "Jeesh, look at the caliber of aide our senior ('our' in the NATO collective, I'm U.S. but it still applies to U.S. leadership) civilian leaders pick for themselves." The guy can't keep his britches zipped in the middle of a counter-intell threat that is off the scale. What a winner.

Is it a bad thing if I laugh my butt off when it turns out the girl was a minor and someone has some 'happy snaps'?
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Old 07-21-2008   #4
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Originally Posted by Van
Is it a bad thing if I laugh my butt off when it turns out the girl was a minor and someone has some 'happy snaps'?
If they were going to coerce him through blackmail into a productive source, they would not have compromised him at the outset by taking his Blackberry. Poor tradecraft, and the Chinese aren't such amateurs that they'd set him up for one and ruin the effort by doing the other.
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Old 07-21-2008   #5
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they'd set him up for one and ruin the effort by doing the other.
I was being facetious, but...

A multipexed operation to maximize options and create deniability and media confusion? Use a girl just under the legal age, so if the pigeon complains about the stolen gadget, they can charge the victim of an intell op with statutory rape. If he doesn't report the theft, they can go with extortion. Deniability, as they can point out that she's a minor, and they'd never use a minor like that (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). If the target tries to make a stink in the media, they make a bigger one?

But I'm just thinking out loud, and I was joking in the first place.
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Old 07-21-2008   #6
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Default Two angles

For a detailed commentary: http://www.spyblog.org.uk

Why do we assume it was the Chinese government?

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Old 07-21-2008   #7
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Originally Posted by Van View Post
I was being facetious, but...

A multipexed operation to maximize options and create deniability and media confusion? Use a girl just under the legal age, so if the pigeon complains about the stolen gadget, they can charge the victim of an intell op with statutory rape. If he doesn't report the theft, they can go with extortion. Deniability, as they can point out that she's a minor, and they'd never use a minor like that (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). If the target tries to make a stink in the media, they make a bigger one?

But I'm just thinking out loud, and I was joking in the first place.
No, joking is fine - but I do think it is important to understand the nature of the threat, and I appreciate your throwing out the examples.

Recruiting a source - whether willingly or through coercion - is best kept as simple as possible. Complexity = risk and putting too many layers on it - especially with the risk of image blowback through the use of a minor in a sexual situation - is not something that would be used by the Chinese against a target at that level (especially just prior to the Olympics).

Deniability in this case is also simple - being rolled by a hooker is something that occurs often enough everywhere in the world for the Chinese simply to pass it off as common theft as opposed to a targeted lift.

Coercion to keep someone quiet about a theft is not that common in espionage (much more common in the criminal world). Even without the individual's confession, the outright theft of an item desired by a hostile intelligence agency would usually be noticed. Coercion is more commonly used to obtain information/items that the source has access to, and that can be obtained and delivered by the source in a manner that won't compromise his position.
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Old 08-31-2011   #8
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Default Video: "Spies Among High-Ranking Officials" (PRC scandals)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=2SA4WMO3jJs
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Old 10-13-2011   #9
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Default Chinese telecom firm tied to spy ministry

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A U.S. intelligence report for the first time links China’s largest telecommunications company to Beijing’s KGB-like intelligence service and says the company recently received nearly a quarter-billion dollars from the Chinese government.

The disclosures are a setback for Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s efforts to break into the U.S. telecommunications market. The company has been blocked from doing so three times by the U.S. government because of concerns about its links to the Chinese government.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...-spy-ministry/
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Old 10-13-2011   #10
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Everything for the Chinese is fair.

They are at war!

Not physical, but benign.

They want to be Numero Uno!

It is by hook or by crook.

And by crook is the easy way out!
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Old 05-29-2012   #11
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Default Chinese intelligence and spying (catch all)

I've been following on and off over the past year, developments in regards to the PRC's intelligence activities. Especially, since there has been alot of converge about the People's Republic's cyber espionage operations(breaking into secure systems & databases; attempting to put back doors into Chinese made electronic products etc).

Both successful and failed attempts to commit industrial espionage against a number of private sector companies around the globe. As well as the PRC's attempts both real and accused of trying to solicit information from foreign nationals both in mainland China it's self/in other countries, and from the large Chinese diaspora abroad.

I've heard some say that the PRC's intelligence operations against the US exceed those of Russia and even the USSR(in it's later years). I've also read that some nations that have dealings with China such as Canada have had both their prominent private and public institutions thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence.

However, despite all these instances that are cited both proven and rumored; how big a problem is Chinese espionage actually?

I mean from what I can tell it's well documented that the PRC's intel collection abilities thorough cyber, open-source, and other means appears quite extensive. Not to mention the numerous Chinese communities throughout the world which provide a good resource pool.

I'm also skeptical from all I've been hearing about in terms of the PRC's espionage efforts. Since they seem limited in their ability to infiltrate/subvert organizations. Because the Chinese diaspora and cyber intel collection amongst others only goes so far IMO.

I'd be interested in hearing the opinions of those more knowledgeable then me on this subject. So does the PRC really have that big of a global/western spy operation or is it being hyped to be something larger then it really is?

Here is an article from the Diplomat on these issues.
http://the-diplomat.com/2011/09/19/c...ng-spy-threat/
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Old 05-29-2012   #12
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Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
However, despite all these instances that are cited both proven and rumored; how big a problem is Chinese espionage actually?
Massive. The cyber-warfare issue may or may not be hyped or exaggerated; the cyber-espionage issue is not being exaggerated.

These people invent nothing these days and steal everything. It is the greatest transfer of wealth in history – the director of the NSA has said as much.

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Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
I'm also skeptical from all I've been hearing about in terms of the PRC's espionage efforts. Since they seem limited in their ability to infiltrate/subvert organizations. Because the Chinese diaspora and cyber intel collection amongst others only goes so far IMO.
Don't be. They have money and they know how to use it; the PRC money has been pumping money into our political system for years to both parties.

Cyber-espionage can go pretty damn far if you stop and think about it. We might be better off printing out every government and corporate secret that we have and just dumping it all into China, just to confuse the SOBs. The NSA has come out and said that some form of computer compromise is the new normal, and that no system is secure – even their own.

Also the US gives the nation of Israel the right to steal whatever the hell it wants in our country; and since the nation of Israel exports little of value other than military technology, Israel inevitably sells its stolen technology to China.

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Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
So does the PRC really have that big of a global/western spy operation or is it being hyped to be something larger then it really is?
I think we are only now seeing the tip of the iceberg. The full ramifications wont be seen for decades to come.
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Old 05-30-2012   #13
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I'd say both real and hyped. No doubt there's a threat and an issue, but I also have little doubt that the threat has been oversensationalised. It's also fairly obvious that the same things are being done in the opposite direction, along with various other countermeasures (such as setting up defective or erroneous data for theft). The Chinese are neither omniscient not omnipotent, and the people on the other side are not entirely inept.

Given that as a general rule the most effective intel operations are the ones that remain unknown, it's very difficult to say what's bigger, better, most extensive or most effective.
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Old 05-30-2012   #14
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I'd say both real and hyped. No doubt there's a threat and an issue, but I also have little doubt that the threat has been oversensationalised.
A previous comment of yours in a thread about cyber-espionage demonstrated that you have a poor understanding of information security concepts. Combine that with your reflexive apologizing for China, and I’m not sure your opinion alone on this matter is worth a damn.

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It's also fairly obvious that the same things are being done in the opposite direction,
So what? China hardly has significantly s&t worth stealing for commercial or military industrial purposes; they invent nothing, they innovate nothing – all they do is copy and steal.

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Given that as a general rule the most effective intel operations are the ones that remain unknown, it's very difficult to say what's bigger, better, most extensive or most effective.
The operations uncovered so-far are pretty damned impressive and were pretty effective.
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Old 05-30-2012   #15
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Only two small stones to throw into this pond.

I have seen a reference to more PLA officers studying at US universities than US military, less certain was this was at Ph.D. level.

Universities here found now a few years ago that virtually all Chinese technical and scientific students made incredible use of the then free university photocopiers.
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Old 05-30-2012   #16
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Universities here found now a few years ago that virtually all Chinese technical and scientific students made incredible use of the then free university photocopiers.
Photocopiers are so last century!: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/chinese-students-steal-secrets-inventor-james-dyson/story-e6frg6so-1226028900686
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Old 05-30-2012   #17
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Bourbon: Is the whole of this Red Chinese effort centrally coordinated or is it encouraged in a general sense or do they give out equivalents of letters of marque or what? How do they control something so big or do they even truly try?
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Old 05-30-2012   #18
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Massive. The cyber-warfare issue may or may not be hyped or exaggerated; the cyber-espionage issue is not being exaggerated.

These people invent nothing these days and steal everything. It is the greatest transfer of wealth in history – the director of the NSA has said as much.

Well, "nothing" is obviously an exaggeration, as is "everything".

Aside from the unnecessary exaggerations:


Let's assume you were correct about the "nothing" and "everything". We have a historical precedent for the total exploitation of a country's intellectual property: Germany 1945. All patents, all high profile blueprints - gone to the victors.
What did it mean? Actually, very little.

The real transfer was in the captured or hired technicians and scientists.
Blueprints with no or only minor captured technicians regularly led to minimal or no success.

The German economy had to be rebuilt, but lack of intellectual property was not among the big problems. Not a single major industry collapsed for this reason. The only key industry that shrank badly was the aviation industry, and that had obvious different reasons in both West and East.


The real challenge is to make good and timely use of documents, not to get them in the first place.


Besides; the U.S. isn't that innovative, either.
The majority of American innovation announcements I know were no innovations, but rather revivals of failed ideas or revivals of European innovations. Now imagine how many of the others were no innovations either and I just didn't know their roots!
There's a lot of show aptitude involved that deceives many people.
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Old 05-31-2012   #19
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Combine that with your reflexive apologizing for China, and I’m not sure your opinion alone on this matter is worth a damn.
Since when did failure to panic constitute an apology? Given the nature of the subject, I doubt that any of us is in a position to accurately assess the threat level, and if we were we would not be allowed to post on the subject.

What I said was that threats don't have to be real or hyped, they can also be real and hyped. Virtually all real threats we face are over-hyped, often by people in some way invested in trying to sell us their particular "solution" to whatever threat is in question. That "solution" may be an ideology, a policy, a product, or any number of other things, but if someone needs to invoke fear in order to sell it, there's a good chance that they think the suspension of rational thought is a necessary element of making the sale. Fear is right up there with greed as a marketing strategy.

As a general rule, whenever you read something written by someone who wants you to be afraid, it's time to start taking out grains of salt. That doesn't mean there are no threats, it means that the threats are almost invariably less than what they are hyped up to be.

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So what? China hardly has significantly s&t worth stealing for commercial or military industrial purposes; they invent nothing, they innovate nothing – all they do is copy and steal.
Strange how people so incapable of innovation seem, at least according to some, to be so remarkably capable of inventing ways to steal information. How did a bunch of bonehead copycats morph into the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent masters of the information universe before whom we must tremble in fear?

Our espionage efforts, cyber or otherwise, don't have to be aimed at stealing their innovations. We'd have our own set of goals, like getting a handle on what they've got, where they got it, what they've done with it, and to what extent what they've done with it actually works. Obviously whatever information is gained from these efforts is not being made public.

We know that they spy on us. We also know that we spy on them. We also know that they will be trying to fool us by leaking wrong information to confuse our spying efforts, and that we are doing the same. It's actually a bit reassuring that we don't hear much, if anything, about the efforts on our side. If they were in the headlines, that would be evidence of failure.

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The operations uncovered so-far are pretty damned impressive and were pretty effective.
It would be more impressive if they hadn't been uncovered. Is it not an axiom in the intel world that failure is public and success remains unknown?
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Old 05-31-2012   #20
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Since when did failure to panic constitute an apology? Given the nature of the subject, I doubt that any of us is in a position to accurately assess the threat level, and if we were we would not be allowed to post on the subject.
That is an all purpose good for whatever ails you argument, I don't know and I know that you don't know because if you did you couldn't say but you did so you don't so what I say is just as good as what you say.

And to answer your question, since legitimate concern became hysteria and panic.
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Last edited by carl; 05-31-2012 at 04:57 AM.
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