I haven’t really heard much about the theft of public employee records in Washington (including employees with security clearances) lately, but I have thought about it quite a bit.
So far there hasn’t been much fallout. China was pointed out as the country that hacked our government computers but China says that they did not do it. That has not changed our assessment of blame and it probably won’t unless someone else takes credit or uses the information.
I erroneously thought that our hidden spies had gone out of fashion after the Cold War ended, but I was wrong and, apparently, they are still an asset for United States intelligence gathering. So far these people who sometimes spy have not been sent home in disgrace or arrested and imprisoned in foreign jail cells. However, it sure is embarrassing that someone was able to access this information.
I’m beginning to think that there is no such thing as a secure computer or really good encryption. Look what happened to that flight that got hacked in Poland this weekend. There are, apparently, back doors planted all over the place. Our Federal government, or so we have been told, is using old technology which needs to be updated as desperately as our highway and rail systems. If priorities are to be set I would say that computer security is an even greater priority than updating our travel networks and both are high on my list.
We have hired young “hacker”-grade computer “geeks” (e.g. Edward Snowden) to run our NSA computers that spy on Americans (and others) so unsuccessfully (e.g. Dylann Roof and many others who were not noticed by the system), so why aren’t some of these resources being put to work on better encryption and tighter computer security? Do we perhaps have “spies” working for the NSA where they can do damage from the inside?
Will America be blind if all of our secret information resources are disabled? We can’t tell yet, obviously, but I bet the shoes will start dropping soon and then we will get some idea of the damage done. Perhaps our assets will be left in place and fed false information. Will we be able to trust any of the data collected by our people? I don’t mean to sound flippant about spying, although it all seems a bit sordid, but can any nation trying to navigate this chaotic age afford to operate without spies? Has any government ever operated without spies? I am certain that all nations have spy networks or perhaps less formal ways to get information. Perhaps we could hack the spy networks of other nations and negotiate a standoff. I’m guessing we will eventually have to deal with this data leak.
I just hope someone has not figured out a way to parlay thefts of computer data into an American economic collapse which many around the world would like very much to see. So far our resilience has held and even the terrible and dramatic destruction of our World Trade Center, buildings full of financial firms, caused the American economy to shudder, but not to fail.
I hope that the reason I come up with these paranoid scenarios that my mind imagines is because I read too many political thrillers. It would seem to my suspicious mind that Russia has far more reasons to seek out our secrets right now than China does. But China has plenty of reasons also and both nations pretend to hate spies while sprinkling the world with spies of their own. Spies obviously did not disappear when the Cold War ended. We are still doing Spy Versus Spy. If we were more efficient, if we accomplished much of anything these days, I’m sure we could find a way to keep our secrets secret.
By Nancy Brisson