Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is heading to Beijing to talk with the Chinese government, and the message he's bringing to the Chinese is that (a) Americans don't do irony and (b) we're a bunch of lying hypocrites. I'm sure that will go over well. You may recall the recent revelations that the NSA (which is a part of the defense department) had hacked into Huawei
-- a company that the US keeps insisting is likely used by the Chinese government
to spy on people... even though it has no evidence at all
to support that.
In what may be the most unintentionally hilarious article in the NY Times you'll read in a while, it discusses how Hagel and the US government are preaching openness, transparency and candor when it comes to state-level cyberattacks
, sharing information on what the US is doing, and hoping that the Chinese will reciprocate. In fact, the Obama administration recently held a briefing for the Chinese government in which they discussed the US's "doctrine" for defending against cyberattacks:
The idea was to allay Chinese concerns about plans to more than triple the number of American cyberwarriors to 6,000 by the end of 2016, a force that will include new teams the Pentagon plans to deploy to each military combatant command around the world. But the hope was to prompt the Chinese to give Washington a similar briefing about the many People’s Liberation Army units that are believed to be behind the escalating attacks on American corporations and government networks.
So far, the Chinese have not reciprocated — a point Mr. Hagel plans to make in a speech at the P.L.A.’s National Defense University on Tuesday.
Note, of course, that they only discussed how the US defends
against attacks, not their offensive capabilities, such as hacking into Huawei or introducing destructive malware like Stuxnet. Even so, Hagel's mantra seems to be that "transparency" is suddenly a good thing.
In Beijing, the defense secretary “is going to stress to the Chinese that we in the military are going to be as transparent as possible,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, “and we want the same openness and transparency and restraint from them.”
Of course, that's quite a different message from a year ago. As you may recall, just as the first Snowden documents were being released to the public, President Obama was scolding China
for its cyberattacks. But, as the NY Times article notes:
“We clearly don’t occupy the moral high ground that we once thought we did,” said one senior administration official.
And, yet, it seems that making these hilarious claims of "openness" and "transparency" from an administration famous for its unprecedented secrecy
has been drilled into Hagel's head for this trip to Beijing. Discussing a different issue -- an escalating dispute between China and Japan over some uninhabited islands -- Hagel again made a statement that reads like pure hypocrisy
"The more transparent and open governments can be with each other, the better for everyone. That avoids miscalculation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and hopefully that lowers the risks of conflict."
While that statement is likely true, it seems fairly rich for the US to be out there preaching that message, while being one of the least transparent, least open US administrations ever. Last year, we wrote about how the Snowden and Manning stories basically stripped the US
of its ability to hypocritically browbeat other countries, because those other countries had little to pushback on. As we noted, the way out of that was to stop being hypocritical
and to actually practice openness and transparency. While, perhaps, you could argue that sharing a few details of our "cyberdefense" capabilities qualifies, that's a pretty hard sell. The US government still seems to hope that its own hypocrisies will be ignored while it preaches principles it comes nowhere close to living up to.