China seen as winner in Snowden incident
The timing and the content of Snowden’s statements are nothing short of evidence of China’s Intelligence Service’s impressive victory over the US special services, says an expert with the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Vassily Kashin.
The decision of the former technical contractor of the CIA and NSA, Edward Snowden, to take a plane to Moscow and ask for political asylum in Ecuador has come as another piece of bad news to the United States. The US government should well expect more revelations as long as Snowden retains his status of a committed fighter against US special services who is struggling for civil freedoms. The forthcoming revelations will either provoke domestic political scandals in the United States or discredit individual areas of the US foreign policy.
We will hardly learn about all the details of Snowden’s escape from the United States in the near future. But the timing and content of Snowden’s recent statements point out that we are most likely bearing witness to the Chinese Intelligence Service’s impressive victory over the US special services.
Snowden’s flight to Hong Kong occurred shortly before an important China-US summit in California. During the summit, President Barack Obama raised the issue, in the course of his talks with his Chinese opposite number Xi Jinping, about China’s cyber-espionage against the US. Snowden’s first exposures of the US National Security Agency came right ahead of the summit, and also during the presidential meeting, triggering a mammoth domestic political scandal. Snowden subsequently elaborated on the way Americans had hacked into computer networks on mainland China and in Hong Kong.
Snowden’s revelations have made the US feel awkward at a time when the US had overpowered Chinese diplomats’ objections and ensured the discussion of Chinese cyber-spying at top level. Snowden offered exhaustive evidence of US hypocrisy. The US is now hardly in a position to unilaterally level criticism at China when discussing cyber-espionage. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has already pointed out in a statement that the People’s Republic of China is one of the victims of network attacks, and voiced concern over the information that was made public by Snowden.
Each of Snowden’s statements that have been made public had been timed perfectly. For example, reports about the US and British special services’ tapping on telephone conversations and reading foreign diplomatic cables during the G-20 summit in London in 2009 were made public on the first day of the recent G-8 summit in the UK. This could hardly be a coincidence. The timing for each of Snowden’s revelations showed a thorough knowledge of the current political situation in the world, above all, in Sino-US relations. A system manager with no higher education could hardly possess this kind of knowledge.
The situation that’s Snowden got into looks like a triumph of China’s Intelligence Services and the first major defeat of the US Intelligence Community since the end of the Cold War. Once the KGB was done away with, the US hardly expected to ever again meet an enemy that would prove equal in strength in terms of intelligence gathering, and it was clearly unprepared for the situation.
It is safe to assume that Snowden will make more revelations about the US Intelligence Community in the foreseeable future. Snowden’s escape was well thought-out. He had collected and copied a great amount of top secrets. He shouldn’t even have had access to some of the documents currently at his disposal. Along with the scandal around the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing website, Snowden’s story points to major problems in the United States concerning classified information security and the protection of sources the intelligence was obtained from.
The US government will find it hard to parry the accusations. The former US Vice President Dick Cheney has already said that Snowden must have worked for Chinese special services. But the view is not really shared by the US media. Many American political activists will take any accusations of Snowden as an attempt to denigrate the human rights champion.
Washington has thus got one more headache to deal with, while China has got more trump cards up its sleeve for the discussions of not only cyber-spying, but also of human rights and Internet freedoms.