If there’s one thing you need to read today, it’s the transcript of General Michael Hayden’s interview with the Australian Financial Review. To say that excerpting it does it no justice is a massive understatement. Any VM readers interested in geopolitics, Asia, China’s rise, and cyber-espionage owe it to themselves to make their way through the admittedly lengthy conversation.Here’s General Hayden on China’s telecom giant Huawei:
AFR: Does Huawei represent an unambiguous national security threat to the US and Australia?Gen. Hayden: Yes, I believe it does.AFR: Do you think hard evidence exists within democratic, English-speaking intelligence networks intelligence network that Huawei has engaged in espionage on behalf of the Chinese state in the past?Gen. Hayden: Yes, I have no reason to question the belief that’s the case. That’s my professional judgement. But as the former director of the NSA, I cannot comment on specific instances of espionage or any operational matters.
Hayden goes on to detail in some depth exactly how and why Huawei cannot be trusted, and how sovereign states need to delicately balance free markets and national interests. It’s a very smart and nuanced take, and one we’ve noted becoming increasingly apparent to the Silicon Valley set.Next, General Hayden contends that the Snowden leaks have caused far more damage to U.S. security interests than most people realize—perhaps more even than the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanson betrayals, which led to people being executed.
Snowden is attempting to reveal the underlying architecture of the US intelligence gathering network. We’ve lost cups of water before. We’ve lost buckets of water. Yet this is a guy who is exposing the very plumbing that pipes the information. He’s exposing the methods through which we access information.
Nevertheless, Hayden argues that leaks like this are both inevitable and more likely to happen again in the future:
…we Americans and Australians need to recruit from Edward Snowden’s generation. The problem is that this is a generation of people whose views on secrecy, privacy, transparency, and government accountability are a bit different from the folks supervising them, and certainly different from my generation.We nonetheless need to recruit from this group because they have the skills that ASIO, ASIS, DSD, NSA and CIA require to fulfil their lawful mandates. So the challenge is how to recruit this talent while also protecting ourselves from the very small fraction of that population that has this romantic attachment to absolute transparency at all costs.
Finally, the article returns to the reality of global cyber-espionage, the China-US relationship, and US strategy in Asia. A final taste:
AFR: You say there is a key difference between the espionage practices of the US and its allies and China’s spying. What is it?Gen. Hayden: Listen, I fully admit: we steal other country’s secrets. And frankly we’re quite good at it. But the reason we steal these secrets is to keep our citizens free, and to keep them safe. We don’t steal secrets to make our citizens rich. Yet this is exactly what the Chinese do.I believe the Chinese today are engaging in unrestricted espionage against the West that is comparable to the unrestricted submarine warfare waged by Imperial Germany in 1916. The intensity of Chinese espionage is certainly greater than that what we saw between the US and the Soviets during the Cold War.The problem is China’s view is that industrial espionage by the state against relatively vulnerable private enterprise is a commonly accepted state practice. This is just unacceptable.Industrial espionage by the Chinese has probably now become the core issue in the Sino-American relationship. It is not an irritant. It is not a peripheral issue. Believe me, I work closely with America’s congress and government, and this is now the dominant issue between the two countries, and runs the risk of undermining the entire relationship.
Do read the whole thing. These few excerpts don’t even scratch the surface.