Der Spiegel has released another big story yesterday based on the Edward Snowden documents, this time targeting China’s top political leaders and companies that pose a threat to American technology companies. It seems likely that this news release was timed to coincide with Michelle Obama’s current visit to China so that the news would have maximum impact.
The American government conducted a major intelligence offensive against China, with targets including the Chinese government and networking company Huawei, according to documents from former NSA worker Edward Snowden that have been viewed by SPIEGEL. Among the American intelligence service’s targets were former Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Chinese Trade Ministry, banks, as well as telecommunications companies.
But the NSA made a special effort to target Huawei. With 150,000 employees and €28 billion ($38.6 billion) in annual revenues, the company is the world’s second largest network equipment supplier. At the beginning of 2009, the NSA began an extensive operation, referred to internally as “Shotgiant,” against the company, which is considered a major competitor to US-based Cisco. The company produces smartphones and tablets, but also mobile phone infrastructure, WLAN routers and fiber optic cable — the kind of technology that is decisive in the NSA’s battle for data supremacy.
The operation was conducted with the involvement of the White House intelligence coordinator and the FBI. One document states that the threat posed by Huawei is “unique”.
Of course, when questioned about this, US spokespersons trotted out the tired and threadbare national security line.
Responding to the allegations, NSA spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said she should could not comment on specific collection activities or on the intelligence operations of specific foreign countries, “but I can tell you that our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country.” She also said, “We do not give intelligence we collect to US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”
That is disingenuous in the extreme. We are long past the stage where the claims that all this spying is to fight terrorism have any credibility whatsoever.
Glenn Greenwald comments on the remarkable fact of many US journalists actually condemning the release of this story because it was not about spying on Americans. As Greenwald asks:
Who created the uber-nationalistic standard that the only valid disclosures are ones involving the rights of Americans? Are we are all supposed to regard non-Americans as irrelevant? Is the NSA’s bulk, suspicionless surveillance of the private communications of hundreds of millions of human beings inherently proper simply because its victims aren’t American citizens? Even more extreme: are American journalists (and whistleblowers like Snowden) supposed to keep the public ignorant of anything and everything the US Government does to people provided those people aren’t blessed with American citizenship? Do you condemn whoever leaked the existence of top secret CIA black sites to Dana Priest on the ground that it didn’t involve violations of the rights of Americans? It makes sense that US government officials view the world this way: their function is to advance the self-perceived interests of the US government, but that’s not the role of actual journalists or whistleblowers.
Truly, this strategy of channeling these stories through the big establishment media outlets has put the government and jingoistic journalists in a bind because they are forced to refrain from targeting the New York Times that also reported on this story and instead focus their ire on Snowden. But Greenwald points out that Snowden himself has not released any documents since leaving Hong Kong on June 9, 2013 and has nothing to do with any of the subsequent stories which are being reported on by journalists on their own schedule. It should also be noted that Snowden explicitly excluded the NYT from his list of journalists because of their past subservience to the US government.