BEIJING: Nothing could be more ridiculous than U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring last month that the United States would launch a five-pronged effort under the so-called “Clean Network” program to protect U.S. assets.
Under this initiative, the United States will seek to remove “untrusted” Chinese apps such as TikTok and WeChat from U.S. mobile app stores, limit the ability of Chinese cloud service providers like Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent to access cloud-based systems in the United States, and ensure undersea cables “are not subverted for intelligence gathering” by China.
Pompeo has been mongering his “China threat” theory around the world, urging others to guard against China “stealing user data.” But what about the track record of the United States in this regard?
When it comes to telecom theft, the United States has always ranked first in the world. In addition to pressuring AT&T, Verizon and other carriers for their data, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using fake base stations named Dirtbox in its wiretapping programs including the Boundless Informant since more than a decade ago. Through Dirtbox, they simulate signals of base stations to tap into and steal data from cellphones. As French newspaper Le Monde reported, thanks to Dirtbox, data from 62.5 million phones was collected by the United States in France.
Pompeo has been accusing TikTok, WeChat and other apps of being tools for the Chinese government’s “infiltration.” But in reality, the United States is the one that is adept at turning apps into surveillance units. Leaked documents of PRISM revealed that the NSA sees apps as “data mines” with huge reserves of data to be harvested and thus invests heavily to this end. Under the agency’s pressure, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google Maps and even Angry Birds were forced to cooperate with the NSA.
An “innovative move” by U.S. intelligence is to steal secrets through the app store. As revealed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the NSA and intelligence agencies of other Five Eyes countries initiated Project Irritant Horn, which hijacks the Play Store to implant spyware on target smartphones or exploit loopholes. With this program, the Five Eyes managed to steal massive amounts of data.
As for Clean Cloud, the United States is the real gangster of “cloud theft.” The Washington Post exposed that the NSA, along with the Government Communications Headquarters of Britain, launched a surveillance program called Muscular to frequently break into the cloud servers of Google and Yahoo. They even went so far as to intercept data and direct it to the agencies’ own database. This was how hundreds of millions of personal information records were collected.