Dear Uncle Sam,
Forgive me for being so familiar with you, but since I worked for you for a number of years, perhaps you won’t mind. I know that you’re busy but something has been weighing on my mind for quite a while and I think it’s pretty important that I get an answer from you.
Sam, (can I call you Sam?) I’m really concerned that you cannot keep the secrets that affect our nation. And, lately, my concerns have increased on a daily basis. Yes, Sam, I understand that in an open society like ours, it is more difficult for the government to keep secrets and I believe that this is a good thing. When a government is too secretive, well, we know that bad things can happen. I wouldn’t change our form of government for all the tea in China. (Whoops, that might be an inappropriate comparison, but I’ll get back to that later.)
Sir, as you know, we’ve had problems keeping secrets in the past. Even in World War II we had difficulties. After our tremendous victory at the Battle of Midway, a headline in the Chicago Tribune blared: “NAVY HAD WORD OF JAP PLAN TO STRIKE AT SEA”. As it turned out, incredibly, a naval officer had casually shown a document to a reporter which did, indeed, show Japanese Admiral Yamamoto’s deciphered operations order. Naval Intelligence had spent years cracking Japanese codes and their efforts were almost completely undone by an idiotic officer and a reporter hungry for a scoop. To my knowledge, no one was punished for the incident. A second serious breach in security came when Kentucky Democratic Representative Andrew May, in a press conference, blurted out the highly secret information that the reason for U.S. Navy submarines’ success was that the Japanese were setting their depth charges to explode at too shallow a depth. Shortly after, the Navy lost 10 submarines and 800 men; losses attributed to May’s outburst. May was never punished for this. However, after the war, he was found guilty of war profiteering and served 9 months in a federal prison. (He was subsequently given a full pardon by President Harry Truman and remained active in Democratic Party politics while he practiced law in his native Kentucky. A building in a Kentucky state park is named after him.)
But, as you know Sam, security-wise, we really stepped in it during the development of our atomic bomb. In fact, we stepped in it so badly that Joe Stalin knew of our progress even before (then) Vice President Truman. Sir, we really did try; but despite our best efforts, traitors such as Julius Rosenberg and Klaus Fuchs insured that the Soviets would have their own atom bomb four years after we first exploded ours. It was a devastating failure on the part of our intelligence.
Sam, I’m sure that you remember the ’80s; a time in which we virtually hemorrhaged secrets to the Soviet Union. Thanks to the treasonous efforts of John Walker (Navy), Robert Hansson (FBI), and Aldrich Ames (CIA) we were rocked back on our heels. What is particularly galling about Hansson and Ames is that each one should have been detected in the early stages of their traitorous careers; each one had large houses and expensive cars, items that would have been impossible on their government salaries. A little bit of shoe leather would have found them out. Instead, because of sheer laziness and incompetence, both FBI and CIA counterintelligence relied almost solely on lie detector tests; tests that were easily defeated by practiced liars such as Hansson and Ames. As for Walker, he was caught only when his disgruntled wife dropped a dime on him. All three of these individuals should have been promptly executed. However, because our counterintelligence was so inept, they had absolutely no idea how much information had been divulged to our enemies. So, all three individuals were able to plea bargain their way out of the death chamber by agreeing to tell what secrets they had passed along. To this day, no one knows how many of our foreign intelligence assets were executed because of Hansson and Ames; today both are living off the taxpayer’s dime. As for Walker, he died in his sleep, in prison.
Sir, let’s spring ahead to our first Gulf War in 1991. The world watched as we tore through the supposedly formidable Iraqi military in 100 hours. There were billions of people watching but no one watched more intently than the People’s Republic of China. As they witnessed our display of “Shock and Awe”, only one thought crossed their minds, “If we go toe to toe with these guys, we’re going to have our derrieres handed to us”. (Or something to that effect.)
At that point, the Chinese made a strategic decision; since they could never match our ability to innovate, they would have to steal the technology that they needed. And, that is exactly what they have done. All of this leads me to an important question: Do you have a clear understanding of who our enemies are? It helps if you’re going to protect our secrets.
Sam, our relationship with the Red Chinese has always been, well, complicated. Starting with Nixon and Kissinger’s grand strategic plan, we have managed to delude ourselves into thinking that if we like them, they will like us back; that they will evolve into a society that resembles ours; and, most importantly, they will “play fair” in areas of international trade and other international norms. Suffice to say, that has not happened.
Although I might be a bit prejudiced, I believe that this country has met the Chinese more than halfway. From the time that we initially attempted to “normalize” relations between Red China and the US, we supplied them with military hardware and know-how. Of course, we didn’t give away our most cutting-edge technology but we gave them military assets that we should have never parted with. And, what did we get from them? In a word, nothing.
Sir, you should have taken to heart the ideas propounded in Unrestricted Warfare written in 1999 by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, two colonels in the People’s Liberation Army. In a sense, they were telegraphing their punch although it appears that you have learned not one thing.
To tell you the truth, I’m really getting sick and tired of having “experts” (especially in government) telling folks like me that we just don’t have the “nuance” to understand how we should be responding to the Red Chinese threat. Well, it seems to me that a fellow by the name of Neville Chamberlain had “nuance” coming out of his wazoo and it didn’t really do Great Britain much good. And, I’m getting equally tired of having these same “experts” cautioning us to be careful lest we “weaken the moderates”. This type of thinking was false concerning the Soviets; it was false concerning the Iranians, and it’s false concerning the Red Chinese. There are no “moderates” in the Chinese Communist Party. Sam, it’s way past time that you figured this out. (Lest we think that those two colonels were outliers, both were promoted after their book’s publication.)
Sam, Red Chinese expansion is growing on a monthly basis. Their “One Belt, One Road” initiative is a naked attempt to expand their economic and political influence. To a large extent, that expansion has been funded with US dollars. Still, there is a large segment within the US that refuses to see this; a segment that is so hungry for short-term profits that they cannot see the bigger picture. We have been playing checkers while the Red Chinese have been playing chess. In fact, we have a Presidential candidate, who is so monumentally stupid that he said,
China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the … west. They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system…. They’re not bad folks, folks but guess what? They’re no competition for us.
Obviously, this person should not be permitted to handle sharp-pointed scissors let alone run for President. However, there are too many people who believe as he does.
In a sense, the COVID-19 outbreak was a “teachable moment” for all of us. When the Red Chinese threatened to take actions that would “plunge America into the mighty sea of coronavirus”, they left absolutely no question where they stand. Now, what do we do about it? Of course, there are hundreds of things that we can do economically, but what I am concerned about is what we need to do militarily.
Sam, the first thing we can do is patch up our woefully inadequate security. At this moment, the Red Chinese are learning of our military capabilities as fast as we are creating them. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Well, take a look at the new Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20. Does it look a bit familiar? Well, it should. It’s a copy of the F-22, our own stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin. Not convinced? Take a look at the Chinese FC-31 fighter when it rolls off the assembly line; you’ll see that it’s a knockoff of Lockheed’s F-35. Unbelievably, some of the components of the F-35 are manufactured in Red China!
Why are we spending billions of tax dollars developing weapons that will be copied by the Red Chinese as soon as ours are deployed? We are at war! When is this going to be understood? Last year the Washington Post reported that, over the last 15 years, the Red Chinese have stolen over 50 terabytes of data related to our stealth fighters, radars, missiles and engines. That’s a lot of data, Sam. And, it tells me that you’re not taking the issue of security very seriously.
Let’s start with some basics and the most basic of them all is accountability. As I said, I was employed by you for a number of years. And, it was drilled into me, time and time again, that any lapse of security on my part would be very costly to me. Each time that I drew the assignment of “classified courier” I knew that those authentication codes and encryption tapes entrusted to me were to be handled with the utmost care. It’s no different for any other man and woman in uniform; mishandle classified information and suffer the consequences.
So why then do politicians such as Sandy “Socks” Berger and his boss, Hillary Rodham Clinton walk away from flagrant security violations? Why does a convicted security leaker have his/her sentence commuted? Why are members of congress allowed to leak information from classified briefings without fear of punishment? Why do congressional staffers treat classified data as little secrets to be shared over cocktails? Do they know what an Essential Element of Information (EEI) is? Do they even care?
When you address these questions, Sam, then take a look at cybersecurity and try to understand why I’m so concerned. Let me ask you this: Are you familiar with PLA Units 61398 and 61486? How about Russian Units 26165 and 74455? North Korean Bureau 121? How about the Iranian Cyber Army? You should be, Sam, because they’re eating our lunch. And, they’re doing it with such ease that the North Koreans, evidently tiring of hacking into our systems with such ease, have hired themselves out to third parties interested in their services.
It’s hard to imagine, Sir. This is the United States. We’re supposed to be the world leader in computing; systems design, networking, hardware, software, you name it. But, in the area we need it most, security; we’re getting our butts kicked all over the yard.
Federal government systems, state government systems, private companies (both large and small); none have been safe from state-sponsored hackers, especially those that I mentioned, above. And, the Federal government appears to be helpless. In fact, the government is so helpless that after the OPM hack of 2015, your Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “You kind of have to salute the Chinese for what they did.” No Sam, we shouldn’t have “saluted” the Chinese for what they did; we should have realized that they were our enemy, not a valued trading partner. Oh, and one more thing: Clapper should have been fired on the spot and run out of Washington, D.C. on a rail for his response.
Now, we hear that a $10 billion contract has been given to Microsoft for a “Cloud Computing” project. Sam, at the rate the federal government has been protecting its data (and secrets), the Red Chinese (and probably others) will be part of that “Cloud” before it’s even deployed.
So there it is in a nutshell, Sam. Now what are you going to do? I’m just an old curmudgeon but let me give you a few unsolicited suggestions:
- Enforce the existing laws that we have on the books concerning security. And by “enforce” I mean exactly that. A politician who disregards laws pertaining to security should be treated exactly the same as an E-3 in the military.
- Prosecute fully, each and every act of espionage and/or treason. When it is called for, the application of the death penalty should not be avoided.
- Place entry restrictions on Chinese citizens coming to this country. A good first question for their visa interview should be “Are you or your parents members of the Chinese Communist Party?” No, this is not a form of “McCarthyism”; it’s an entirely reasonable question.
- Give the country of Red China no more than 30 days to remove their “Confucius Institutes” from this country. They are little more than propaganda factories here in this country and they may be linked to incidents of espionage. Some colleges and universities may howl because the Chinese are paying them millions to put them on campuses but that’s too bad.
- Step up surveillance of Chinese citizens working in areas that grant them access to classified materials/projects. This is the job of FBI counterintelligence. I know that they will scream that they just don’t have the “manpower” to adequately monitor all threats but here’s an idea: they could free up a great deal of “manpower” if they would just take all the deskbound “commandos” such as Peter Strzok that have been trying to take down President Trump and reassign them to field work. Heck, I won’t even argue if Strzok needs to take Lisa Page along during his overnight “stakeouts.” Also, I noticed this week that the Justice Department has declined to prosecute a senior FBI intelligence analyst who was fired from the bureau after admitting to possessing child pornography. The Bureau would say only that the analyst had held a “supervisory role.” Here’s another idea for additional “manpower.” How about getting some of these porno-surfing agents out of the office and putting them to work doing some real investigatory activity?
- Get some real expertise to fight Red Chinese hackers (and those in other countries). I see that we now have a U.S. Cyber Command, composed of 13 separate entities. I hope that this will be adequate but when I think of the 17 intelligence agencies that were utterly clueless before 9/11, well, you can see my lack of enthusiasm. Will these 13 agencies be paralyzed by the same bureaucratic inertia that killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11? I hope not.
Most Importantly: Sam, I want you to go to the blackboard and write, “Red China is My Enemy”. Now, I want you to repeat that 499 times or at least as many times as you need to understand that we are in a conflict.
There’s a line in Michael Pillsbury’s The Hundred-Year Marathon that reads, “It’s easy to win a race when you’re the only one who knows it has begun.” Sam, the Red Chinese know we’re in a conflict; do you?