Day By Day

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chinese Espionage in Hawaii

The ineptitude of the American intelligence services is beyond belief.

Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Times, reports:

China's intelligence service gained access to a secret National Security Agency listening post in Hawaii through a Chinese-language translation service, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The spy penetration was discovered several years ago as part of a major counterintelligence probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that revealed an extensive program by China's spy service to steal codes and other electronic intelligence secrets, and to recruit military and civilian personnel with access to them.

According to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, China's Ministry of State Security, the main civilian spy service, carried out the operations by setting up a Chinese translation service in Hawaii that represented itself as a U.S.-origin company.

Read the whole thing here.

Three points to make here:

1) The funding cuts during the 1990's did enormous damage to our intelligence capabilities and forced agencies to outsource many of their functions. China was taking advantage of that opportunity.

2) Attempts to beef up our intelligence services have been focused almost exclusively on Islamic cultures and have neglected China.

3) It takes years to recruit and train foreign language specialists to the point where they are useful for intelligence work, so a quick fix is not possible.

Wretchard, over at Belmont Club, has some nice commentary on the problem here. He argues that the level of penetration into our government by foreign spies is comparable to that achieved by Stalin's USSR back in the 1930's.

One of his commentators makes the good point that since we knew about this for years, we could have used the translating service to provide disinformation to the Chinese. Possible, but considering the general ineptitude of our intelligence services I doubt it.