By Erick San Juan
I was amazed to read at the Wall Street Journal (7/9/14) an article entitled “From Hidden Station, China Spies on the World” by James T. Areddy, Paul Mozur and Danny Yadron. It pictured how sophisticated the Chinese espionage and their high-tech weaponry capability that can compete with the western technology.
The report vividly described the China’s version of the US National Security Agency monitoring Russia and track missiles from the mountains near Beijing. China’s military experts allegedly analyze internet phone calls on an island dubbed as China’s Hawaii and eavesdropped on Europe from a secret town hidden behind an array of residential towers.
The Wall Street Journal assembled an overview of some secret operations of China’s global monitoring organization using Chinese government websites, academic databases and foreign security expertise. The 3rd Department of the Peoples Liberation Army’s General Staff Department which spy watchers call 3PLA is reportedly central to China’s military strategy, tasked with monitoring and analyzing much of the world’s communication, including embassy cables, corporate emails and criminal networks for foreign threats and competitive advantages.
China’s national security operation is perceived to maintain what active and former US officials say are facilities around Shanghai specialized in watching the US. One of them is located close to the main transoceanic communication cables linking China to the US.
Last May, the US Justice Department indicted five officers of 3PLA on charges that they stole US corporate secrets. The report added that as Beijing modernized its high-tech defensive arsenal, the Wall Street Journal backed up ‘on the ground’ views of 3PLA facilities with an examination of the organizational structure of the NSA like military departments. Pundits believe, it rattled governments and corporations around the globe while remaining obscure outside security circles. Its operational units are spread out widely throughout China.
According to foreign experts, recruits came from elite specialist universities. 3PLA’s estimated 100,000 plus hackers, linguists, analysts and officers populate a dozen military intelligence units. Its multiple sub-operations divvy up responsibility according to geography and task as reported. At some 3PLA units in Beijing and Shanghai, arrays of satellite dishes seemed to dwarf the walls surrounding them where visitors face stiff-faced guards and written warnings. Some farm fields sprout dozens of thin radio towers next to a base in Northern Shanghai.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, two former US officials familiar with intelligence assessments said 3PLA’s operational structure has parallels with those of the US National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, both run out of Fort Meade in Maryland, USA. There are so many secrets and detailed information at the WSJ report. Who will taught that this top level information can be exposed like the Wikileaks, Snowden report, spy novel like Ludlum, Le Carre and has a semblance of the James Bond spy thriller.
It entered my mind like a ‘deja vu’ when I attended a security conference abroad recently. One of the lecturers told us that the old adage-” He who controls the gold rules.” is already passé and the future war will be won by superior technology. Humint or human intelligence through clandestine and spy networks will soon be replaced by super computers and hi-tech gadgets. Soldiers as warriors due to its vulnerability will be retooled by intelligent robots. Planes, drones, tanks and other weaponry will be unmanned and controlled by computers and satellites.
It’s very clear now that the hype of sophistication is part of psy ops and myth to make the perceived future enemies believe that they now have the capability to fight and defeat the western technology and strategy.
I have to remind some nation-states not to ‘bite the bullet’ and stop their provocation of war just to cover their leaders’ deficiencies and impending domestic strife. In disguise of uniting their nationals, they are trying to be bully for a ’cause’ and possibly fight another enemy.
Such leaders should learn from the mistakes of the past and history of wars. The west have created thousands of think-tank like Project 2049 Institute, a Virginia based organization whom the WSJ was provided with unpublished analysis on 3PLA. What about the several security conferences analyzing and assessing possible and future conflicts inviting members of the academe, top intelligence and defense officials and security analysts worldwide.
The real problem lies with the pawns. The Philippines could possibly be the ‘guinea pig’ if our leaders will not be careful. Be wary!