The Hidden, Dirty Secrets Behind the US Clean Network Program

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By Zhong Shifeng Source: Global Times

Photo taken on Jan. 8, 2020 shows the White House in Washington D.C., the United States.

The US Secretary of State Pompeo lately put forward the Clean Network program, pronged by clean carrier, clean store, clean apps, clean cloud and clean cable, upgrading the containment and suppression of Chinese technology companies by the US.

“Clean” as it claims, is the network really that clean? The US is the indisputable empire of hackers in the world. Corroborating evidence such as WikiLeaks, PRISM, the Equation Group and the Eye of Sauron confirms and exposes to everyone the constant surveillance from the US. What Pompeo and some other politicians have been doing is modelling charges against China on their own tainted histories. These people are so obsessed with the farce of “thieves calling stop thief” that they can hardly see the reality.

Let me walk you through the so-called “five lines of effort” and unveil the dirty secrets under the rug.

I. Clean Carrier and Dirtbox

Clean carrier, the first line of effort, aims to ensure Chinese carriers “are not connected with US telecommunication networks” to prevent US national security threats. The Trump administration suspects that Chinese companies, including Huawei, would gather intelligence in the US through 5G base stations. In fact, such suspicion derives from the US’ own surveillance practices.

When it comes to telecom theft, the US always ranks the first in the world. In addition to pressuring the AT&T, Verizon and other carriers for data supplies, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using fake base stations named Dirtbox in its wiretapping programs including the Boundless Informant since a decade ago. Through Dirtbox, they simulate signals of base stations to tap into and steal data from cell-phones. Le Monde wrote that thanks to Dirtbox, 62.5 million phone data were collected in France.

II. Clean Apps and PRISM

Pompeo has been asking Chinese apps to be taken down in app stores, accusing that TikTok, Wechat and others are infiltration tools of the Chinese government, but in reality, the US is the one that is adept at turning apps into surveillance units. Leaked documents of PRISM have laid this bare. The NSA sees apps as “data mines” with huge reserves of data to be harvested and thus invests heavily to this end. Under the agency’s pressure, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google Map and even Angry Birds, the game, chose to participate in the program.

III. Clean Store and Irritant Horn

Stealing data though app stores is another “innovation” on the list of surveillance practices of the US intelligence agencies. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) revealed that the NSA and the broader Five Eyes intelligence community launched the Irritant Horn program to hijack Google Play Store to serve spyware and exploit bugs in the system. Similarly, the Five Eyes Alliance exploited the security flaws of the UC browser of Alibaba and succeeded in acquiring a mass of data. It is thus not hard to understand why the US emphasizes Clean Store so much.

IV. Clean Cloud and Muscular

Clean Cloud is just a cover for prohibiting Chinese companies, including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent, from storing and processing the US citizens’ personal information and businesses’ intellectual property. The US wants to keep these from its foreign adversaries. However, the US is the real gangster of “cloud theft”. The Washington Post exposed that the NSA, along with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) of the UK, launched a surveillance program called Muscular to frequently break into the cloud servers of Google and Yahoo. They even went so far as to intercept data and direct it to the agencies’ own database. This was how hundreds of millions of personal information records were collected.

V. Clean Cable and Undersea Cable Tapping

On clean cables, Pompeo wants to ensure the undersea cables connecting the US to the global internet are not subverted for intelligence gathering by China. But this in fact is the US presuming others’ behavior based on its own pattern.

According to New Zealand Herald, the US had conspired with the New Zealand intelligence to tap the data flowing in the Chinese consulate general in Auckland. To crack into other countries’ data, the US has just spared no wire in a Chinese consulate, not to mention the undersea cables, “the intelligence gold mine”. It is only natural that the US will take full advantage of them.

Der Spiegel, a German magazine, reported over the years that the NSA has tapped into the “SEA-ME-WE-4”, the longest submarine fiber-optic cable system connecting Europe and Asia. The Washington Post exposed some of the US’ own fiber-optic cable-tapping programs, known by the names Oakstar, Stormbrew, Blarney and Fairview. The Associated Press wrote that the US Navy went out of its way to repurpose a submarine called the USS Jimmy Carter so they could tap fiber-optic cables.

With an appalling and notorious tapping record, the US has never justified its moves and even played double standards when accused of tapping. Everything the US stole is in the name of democracy and rule of law. Even worse, the US has never intended to reflect on its behavior and even smears China.

In the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review, the US blithely acknowledges that the US intelligence agencies should “conduct cyber operations” and other means against “research facilities” of other countries to help American corporations secure competitive advantages. The US is the real offender of cyber-attack and intellectual property theft, yet it shifts the blame to China.

Documents leaked by Snowden show that the US surveillance program codenamed Stateroom ordered the installment of secret signals intelligence equipment in around 100 foreign diplomatic embassies and consulates in other countries for spying purpose. The US is the one that has been directing “massive illegal spying”, but this has become the reason the US gave when demanding the closure of China’s Consulate General in Houston.

As Pompeo said, “We lied, we cheated, we stole… It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment”. Some American politicians suspect and dread of China only because they know what they are doing behind the scenes, and they fear China’s doing the same. They pin the blames on China like a real thief crying “stop the thief”.

“The Filthy Hypocrisy of America’s Clean China-Free Internet” on The Intercept points out that the US vision for a clean network means a China-free network. The policy statement on a clean network is nothing but a piece of xenophobic and nonsensical hypocrisy, and its message is clear: If there’s going to be a world-spanning surveillance state, it is the US.

Obviously, the US vision for a clean network is not an attack-free one but a China-free one. Its purpose is to stoke American people’s fear of China, squeeze Chinese businesses out of the market, gang up with its alliance on China to undercut China’s technological exchange and cooperation with other countries, impede China’s momentum of growth on the technological front, deprive China of its legitimate right to development and maintain the US status as a techno-hegemon.

As a Confucius’ saying goes, “An upright man is open and poised while a petty is anxious and worried”. If the US is committed to achieving a safe and clean network, what they really need to do is to get rid of the deep-seated bias against China, the anxiety of being surpassed by China, the old-dated Cold War mentality, the gunboat diplomacy for technology superpower and the absurd, narrow-minded and immature theory of decoupling from China.

All countries should stay vigilant when the US is approaching again, and we should never forget the fear of living at the mercy of the indiscriminate surveillance organized by the US. Back in these days, officials of US alliance countries had to walk into a meeting room without phones, play music during meeting discussions and take minutes with typewriters instead of laptops. Another case in point is the Crypto AG scandal. The half-a-century old Swiss company was proved to be working for the CIA, and the Crypto devices it sold to 120 countries were ironically tapping equipment. These days are not too far, yet the US has already come with another invitation. However, no country will be easily convinced this time of the “clean network”, because it might be another trap of “tapping network”.

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