NSA Hacks Huawei

Both Der Spiegel and the New York Times are reporting that the NSA has hacked Huawei pretty extensively, getting copies of the company's products' source code and most of the e-mail from the company. Aside from being a pretty interesting story about the operational capabilities of the NSA, it exposes some pretty blatant US government hypocrisy on this issue. As former Bush administration official (and a friend of mine) Jack Goldsmith writes:

The Huawei revelations are devastating rebuttals to hypocritical U.S. complaints about Chinese penetration of U.S. networks, and also make USG protestations about not stealing intellectual property to help U.S. firms' competitiveness seem like the self-serving hairsplitting that it is. (I have elaborated on these points many times and will not repeat them here.) "The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us," says a Huawei Executive.

This isn't to say that the Chinese are not targeting foreign networks through Huawei equipment; they almost certainly are.

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM • 110 Comments

Comments

Yeehaw JunctionMarch 24, 2014 1:25 PM

This also means that if Huawei products did not have backdoors in the past, they may well have them now. Created and installed by, who else buuuuuuuut....(drumroll)....NSA of course!!!...

MarkMarch 24, 2014 1:26 PM

Another way to look at this is to see that any time the military and intelligence establishment put out warnings that "the bad guys are doing this thing" it is really an admission of guilt and a passive, deniable way to bring these issues out in the open.

ChelloveckMarch 24, 2014 1:52 PM

How can you possibly compare the US and Chinese actions vis-a-vis Huawei? It's completely different! On the one hand you have an equipment manufacturer compromised by a bad national actor. On the other hand you have an equipment manufacturer compromised by a *good* national actor. Apples and oranges, Bruce! Why do you hate freedom so much?

JockularMarch 24, 2014 2:02 PM

Was it coincidence that US spying on China was reported on the eve of Obama's meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping? I think not.

Remember when US spying on the G-20 was reported on the eve of the G20 summit? on the EU just before the EU summit? on the UN just before the UN General Assembly? on Dilma just before the planned state dinner for Brazil?

There's never been a journalistic campaign so well orchestrated to keep the key issues before the global public. Evidence that Snowden was BRILLIANT in choosing his journalistic partners, and that those partners have played the hand he dealt them VERY deftly.

Still, the most this campaign can likely achieve is to drive US spying deeper underground (as seems to have happened with the national license-plate-reader database originally planned in the open by DHS.)

As tech affords gov't ever more power, they'll take it! At least, we've all been warned that the world is a panopticon!

SkepticalMarch 24, 2014 2:08 PM


Goldsmith has it a quarter right when he calls the distinction between commercial espionage and security espionage "self-serving hairsplitting."

It's self-serving in part (why only a quarter right and not half? I'll get to it at the end), since the US has much more IP to protect than does the PRC.

But it's not hairsplitting. States are somewhat accepting of limited forms of commercial espionage by other states. But massive, unrelenting commercial espionage by one state will likely force any democratically elected government to eventually take punitive measures against that state. No one wants to get to that point, but we're approaching it. And while US companies may join the chorus calling for certain restrictions on the NSA's activities, they will heartily embrace a strong strategy aimed at changing PRC behavior.

That consideration doesn't apply to espionage conducted for more purely national security purposes. PRC attempts to hack the Pentagon aren't going to move powerful lobbying groups to demand that the government exact a price from the PRC for those efforts (unless of course a government wants to ratchet up public tensions for some reason, but that's a different issue).

In addition, as a matter of fairness and efficiency, we want companies to be rewarded for intellectual innovations, and to the extent we must provide intellectual property protections to make risky ventures economically rational, we want the costs of those protections to be equally borne by the beneficiaries.

Finally, let's understand what the PRC insistence on commercial espionage is really about.

It's not national security, notwithstanding the number of SOEs they have.

It's not about enriching the Chinese people.

Commercial spying from the PRC is largely about corruption. A certain portion of the Chinese Communist Party elite enjoy the fruits of commercial espionage, not the Chinese people. Commercial espionage helps entrench the privileged who are in the favor of the Party; it insulates them from the change and disruption a more dynamic society might bring; it reduces the pressure and demand to allow more foreign investment and cultural influence in China.

In short, while the US, and other countries as well, are willing to tolerate a certain amount of commercial espionage, and realize fully that each nation must use intelligence services to help safeguard national security, there is much less tolerance for massive theft that raises the chances of future instability, free-rides off the intellectual property protections that enable and encourage research and development, and is ultimately done to enhance the power and wealth of a small elite in the PRC.

So, self-serving for the US to insist that the PRC stop commercial espionage? Yes, in that the US benefits from it. But so does every creator and innovator whose hard-earned results are lifted away without so much as a thank you in return. So, ultimately, will the Chinese people, as the Chinese economy becomes more open to foreign investment and business. And so will the world in general, as commercial ties between China and the world are deepened and placed on a more stable basis.

The only losers here are those within the CCP that currently benefit from the theft of creators and researchers across the world.

An important distinction therefore, and one that the US, and its many partners, will continue to press.

uh, MikeMarch 24, 2014 2:08 PM

There are things we want the NSA to do with their power, and other things that we don't want them to do.

If citizens could have an honest discussion with the NSA, we could negotiate a tradeoff.

FalseEquivalenceMarch 24, 2014 2:09 PM

Legitimate governments hacking the networking companies under criminal governments is much different than criminal governments hacking the networking companies under legitimate governments. To say they are the same would be like saying that if the mafia hacked the FBI network then the FBI would be hypocritical to complain because the FBI had been hacking the mafia networks. Criminal dictatorships and the companies they control, don't have a right to privacy.

You could point out the crimes that even legitimate governments inevitably commit and the imperfection of even the best democratic elections, but there is a simple way to recognize the large gap between arguably legitimate governments and governments that are far far less than legitimate - freedom of speech. Not perfect absolute freedom of speech, but at least an arguably reasonable level of freedom to criticize the government. There is also a large gap between elections that are somewhat imperfect, like in the US, and elections that are a total sham, like in China.

DanielMarch 24, 2014 2:28 PM

I think such revelations are useful in the long run because they eliminate the moral high ground as a rhetorical device on both sides. This allows for a frank discussion of competing interests without the posturing of an insincere moralism getting in the way. So both sides are doing it and neither can deny it. So now what?

TimmyMarch 24, 2014 2:38 PM

The difference is that the NSA doesn't give the Huawei source code to Cisco and Juniper, whereas when the PLA hacks Cisco and Juniper they are Huawei.

BenniMarch 24, 2014 2:38 PM

This is similar to a scene in dr strangelove, where an US Military tries to accuse the Russian ambassador of spying, by deliberately putting a camera in the hand of the poor ambassador:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3Rrvh3FwE

and there is this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yfXgu37iyI

Russian Ambassador: Our doomsday sheme costs us more than a fraction what we spend on defense in a single year. But the deciding factor was, when we learned that your country was working on similar lines,and we were afraid of a Doomesday gap.
President: This is preposterous. Ive never approved of anything like that.
Russian Ambassador: Our source was the new york times.
President: Dr Strangelove, do you have anything like that in the works?
Dr Strangelove: A Moment please, Mr President. Under the authority you granted me as director of weapons research and development, I comissioned last year a study of this project by the rand corporation.

from the new york times article:

Washington’s concerns about Huawei date back nearly a decade, since the RAND Corporation, the research organization, evaluated the potential threat of China for the American military. RAND concluded that “private Chinese companies such as Huawei” were part of a new “digital triangle” of companies, institutes and government agencies that worked together secretly.


Remind me, when the rand corporation makes its final report on a doomsday machine....

I think it is time for all tech companies, to make their products open source. Since if you are closed source, you apparently must assume that the adversary has stolen your code long ago to covertly prepare his malware for your product. Only if you go open source, you have a chance that the bugs get fixed by someone else, and you can not assume, that you find the bugs of your software by yourself, if your adversary is as skilled as the nsa.

This chart here shows that they are not only massively spying on china but also on india:

http://wissen.spiegel.de/wissen/image/show.html?did=104673958&aref=imageArchive/2013/07/27/CO-SP-2013-031-0022-01-GR.JPG&thumb=false

India is the largest democracy in the world. If they would do this enormous mass surveillance, just because of indias nuclear weapons, they would, by the same logic, also have to mass spy on russia, but from there, they seem not to get many signals. This indicates that the spying is done for economical purposes.

In this interview,
http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1259508/edward-snowden-us-government-has-been-hacking-hong-kong-and-china

Snowden says:

One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets.

Yeah, the nsa is even hacking students and chinese universities. This is what Snowden is saying here.

Now they are certainly not interested in the eastern philosophy lectures. It can be assumed, they are after the more technically minded people, like engineers, physicists, computer scientists.

The european mathematician J.J Quisquater was hacked by a malware that communicated via encrypted channels over hacked servers from Belgacom:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2093700/prominent-cryptographer-victim-of-malware-attack-related-to-belgacom-breach.html

For hacking belgacom, the nsa needed their quantum insert method with linkedin sites. This method relies on knowing first, when a victim visits a certain site and then answearing faster than the original server.

Thereby, only an adversary can do a quantum insert attack, if he listens in an internet backbone, to get your request first. It is Implausible that the chinese can do an attack like quantum insert with linkedin sites, as these servers are in the us.

It is therefore unreasonable, that the chinese and the nsa hack both into the same belgacom computers with quantum insert methods and that they do this at the same time.

Therefore, it is likely that the adversary, who hacked belgacom is the same, who attacked quisquater with a malware that communicated over the hacked belgacom computers. (note that quisquater also said he got a faked linkedin site first, but then shot down his computer)


Snowden said in his interview in Honkong that the NSA is eager to hack students and universities in china.

That they hack foreign network companies is no wonder then.

If they are even thinking scientists, universities, and students are a useful target.

PeterMarch 24, 2014 2:39 PM

How many systems of news organisations around the world have NSA or other US intelligence org penetrated in the hunt for sources or other intel.?

BenniMarch 24, 2014 3:18 PM

@Timmy:
"The difference is that the NSA doesn't give the Huawei source code to Cisco and Juniper, "

In the last squid thread I have posted among other things, a report from the european comission, which states that the nsa and cia would give secrets from foreign companies to US companies. With their advocacy centre of the trade ministry, the us even have created the necessary legal structure for handing over such information.

@Chelloveck
"How can you possibly compare the US and Chinese actions vis-a-vis Huawei? It's completely different! On the one hand you have an equipment manufacturer compromised by a bad national actor. On the other hand you have an equipment manufacturer compromised by a *good* national actor."


Why do you see china as a "bad" actor?
And, given the fact that the nsa has planted as many bugs in china as they did in india,

http://wissen.spiegel.de/wissen/image/show.html?did=104673958&aref=imageArchive/2013/07/27/CO-SP-2013-031-0022-01-GR.JPG&thumb=false

do you also think, india is a bad actor?

China was hunted for years by large famines.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/131203/fao-china-marks-40-years-cooperation-food-security

China has made great achievements in fighting hunger, halving the number of its undernourished people, Director General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva said Monday. "China's achievements against hunger have been impressive," Graziano da Silva said at the FAO Headquarters at a ceremony to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the cooperation between the UN agency and China.China has reduced the prevalence of its undernourished people from 23 percent in 1990 to 11.4 percent in 2013, he said.

The problem is:
There was an US hunger study, with conscientious objectors in the second world war.

http://www.spiegel.de/einestages/minnesota-hungerexperiment-1944-nahrungsmangel-fuer-die-forschung-a-958232.html

This study wanted to find out how to feed people who are nearly starving in the best way. For this, they searched conscientious objectors whom they let starving at first, and then they gave them food.

The medical results turned out to be outdated when the study was published, because of the advend of modern chemical fertilizers, which reduced famines. But there was an important psychological result:

Hungry people loose their minds, and are getting literally crazy. The scientists concluded that: "you can not teach democracy to hungry people"

Now china was severely and repeatedly hunted by famines. Under this circumstances, you can not expect a democracy to develop.
Recently, china has made enormous successes in reducing this problem.

To develop a democracy and a civilian society, starting from such a base, this will take some hundred years. That does not work out in one night. But certainly one can not say because of this that china would be a "bad actor". China is more a success story in recent times. They have reduced their famines, are industrialising their country. they are increasingly investing in research.

I think you need to give them 100 years more to develop a democracy. The democracies in europe also needed their time to develop. If the US would have been hunted for centuries by large famines, we would not have elections in america too


Rene BastienMarch 24, 2014 4:13 PM

How does anyone know which gear is safe to use any more? How we are to believe that crypto keys stored in HSMs are still secure?

jonesMarch 24, 2014 4:26 PM


China is a new target of US-sponsored industrial espionage, but not the first.

Chapter 10 of the European Parliament Report on Echelon, issued in the year 2000, concerns industrial espionage.

http://cryptome.org/echelon-ep-fin.htm#10

Chapter 7 contains this pretty clear language:

7.3. The question of compatibility in the event of misuse of the system for the purposes of gathering competitive intelligence

If a Member State were to promote the use of an interception system, which was also used for industrial espionage, by allowing its own intelligence service to operate such a system or by giving foreign intelligence services access to its territory for this purpose, it would undoubtedly constitute a breach of EC law. Under Article 10 TEC, the Member States are committed to acting in good faith and, in particular, from abstaining from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the Treaty. Even if the interception of telecommunications is not carried out for the benefit of the domestic industry (which would, in fact, be equivalent in effect to State aid, and thus in breach of Article 87 TEC), but for the benefit of a non-member state, activities of this kind would be fundamentally at odds with the concept of a common market underpinning the EC Treaty, as it would amount to a distortion of competition.

In the opinion of the rapporteur, action of this kind would also be an infringement of the data protection directives for the telecommunications sphere, since the question of the applicability of the directive has to be resolved from a functional rather than an organisational point of view. This follows not only from the wording of the regulation as regards its scope, but also from the sense of the law. If intelligence services use their capability to gather competitive intelligence, these activities are not being carried out for the purposes of security or law enforcement but for other purposes and would consequently fall fully within the scope of the directive. Article 5 of the directive requires the Member States to ensure the confidentiality of communications. 'In particular, they shall prohibit listening, tapping, storage or other kinds of interception or surveillance of communications, by others than users'. Pursuant to Article 14, exceptions may be made only where they are necessary to safeguard national security, defence and law enforcement. As industrial espionage is no justification for an exception, it would, in this case, constitute an infringement of Community law.

BenniMarch 24, 2014 5:15 PM

@ Jones, in the last squid thread,

I gave, in the following posts:

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/03/giant_squid_as_1.html#c5082637

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/03/giant_squid_as_1.html#c5091190
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/03/giant_squid_as_1.html#c5104723

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/03/giant_squid_as_1.html#c5106576

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/03/giant_squid_as_1.html#c5108847

Links to documents that provide terrifying evidence that

a) one main goal of the us bulk collection program is industrial and economic espionage

b) that the us government has created appropriate structures in their trade ministry that enable it to give company secrets collected by nsa and cia to us corporations,

and

c) that the profit for us corporations from nsa and cia collections are at least 9%.

And this were 9% only from known cases where they used nsa and cia to spy on companies.

We are talking here about billions of dollars that the us companies get as profit from nsa economical spying.

This "echelon" report of the european comission had one problem. It overlooked that the antennas were/ are not only able to collect satellite communications. But that they could be used to snoop on the directional radio by which the german post office at that time sent 1/3 of all german phone calls. This was revealed by DER SPIEGEL in 1989:

http://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spiegel.de%2Fspiegel%2Fprint%2Fd-13494509.html&act=url

The spiegel got this from sources at the german secret service BND, who worked with the americans. They noted that, whilst the americans would like it most collect numbers and facts on the economy, the american colleagues often would impress with details of the private lives from german celebrities. NSA sources told Spiegel that they would producing 40 tons of paper from transcribed phone calls each day.

YeahSureMarch 24, 2014 5:24 PM

@ Chelloveck

What freedom exactly are you talking about?

Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?
The right to a trial?
Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment?
What exact freedom do we have left?

Or is this just too complicated for you to address? "I'm good. You're bad. No need to think."

I feel sorry for the supposed patriots who cannot put together a coherent sentence in defense of their views. Freedom from schools and reading books, no doubt.

And talking about joke elections: No matter whom we vote for - say a reformer like Obama '08 - what we get is Bush Jr. An election that cannot change things is not a real election. An if we don't have a right to know what the government is doing, on what basis exactly are we voting? Dumb commercials, distorted facts, campaign lies, that's all we have.

FalseEquivalenceMarch 24, 2014 6:00 PM

@Benni - If famine has prevented democracy and freedom of speech in China, that does not mean the Chinese government is not a bad actor. It just means that famine is the reason the Chinese government is a bad actor, but it is still a bad actor.

And I think you have the cause and effect mixed up anyway. I don't think famine has caused the failure of democracy in China, I think it is the failure of democracy that has caused the famine. You don't cure the famine to bring democracy, you bring democracy to cure the famine.

YeahSureMarch 24, 2014 6:21 PM

@ FalseEquivalence

I don't suppose you have any evidence to back up what you say? Like which famine when was caused by the Chinese government how? Too much to ask?

Millions of people are leading a better life in China. http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/25/news/economy/china-middle-class/

Unlike in the US.

What makes China so evil? Somebody told you so?

As far as freedom of speech goes: Try actually reading about China. There is a strong press that criticizes the government all the time. And it is effective in forcing reforms. Since our media is all owned by corporations that want you to hate China it might take a little work, but there is plenty coverage of free speech in China in the Economist, right wing as it is, because at least it has some sense of integrity. Well, and there's money to be made in China too.

Now speech that risks the integrity of the government in China doesn't fly, it's true, but try suggesting that the US government be overthrown at some point of crisis - like 9/11 - and you'd get a similar result here. Hell, just try staying in a park and protesting for a week and you'd end up in jail these days. Protest is allowed here only to the point it is, and can be, ignored.

BenniMarch 24, 2014 7:39 PM

@FalseEquivalence:
The famines were strong until the 50s in china. Their occurence for hundreds of years had purely environmental reasons. Soil, climate, etc. And their prevention has something to do with the usage of modern fertilizers. It took some time, until the chinese learned of the Bosch-Haber process, so it was applied 40 years later than in germany, where it was discovered, but eventually, the chinese did what is necessary. They even turned their economy into a capitalistic one. The german chancellor Helmut Schmidt once asked the chinese premier Deng Xiaoping: I think Your party is no longer a communistic one, but more a confuzianistic. Deng replied: So what?

Chinese universities certainly do not deserve to be nsa targets. But snowden said, chinese universities and students would be one main target of nsa operations.


As a "bad actor" i think one can describe north korea.
Well, in north korea, there are still famines. And this is because the government is not able to reform their agricultural system, and allows the people to use modern fertilizers. So, indeed, for north korea, it can be said, that there are famines, because it really is a bad actor.
If the nsa would plant bugs everywhere in north korea, i would have nothing against it at all.

FalseEquivalenceMarch 24, 2014 8:31 PM

@YeaSure - All famines since the agricultural revolution, if any, were probably caused by criminal government. The effects of corruption drain needed resources away from the people.

Things seem to be getting somewhat better in China, but they would probably be much better still if they hadn't had a criminal government. The US may not have been improving lately during the recent economic fluctuation, but we are probably massively better off than we would be under a corrupt dictatorship.

What makes the Chinese government so evil is that they imprison and kill people who defy the government's illegitimate restrictions on freedom of speech, and thus impoverish the people.

When I refer to the freedom to criticize the government, I don't mean the freedom to criticize only some minor things that the government allows criticism of. And contrary to your assertion, the Chinese press doesn't seem to be effective at forcing reforms to anything close to a reasonable level of freedom of speech. A quick Google search revealed no suggestion that there is meaningful freedom of speech in China. If Google is hiding it from me then I'd appreciate you citing a URL.

It's true that even legitimate governments can't allow explicit and imminent threats of violence against the government, but the Chinese government goes way beyond that. And even thinly veiled threats of violence against the US government are common on gun boards in the US, without apparent repercussions to the agitators. Thomas Jefferson is even frequently quoted as recommending regular violent insurrections to refresh the tree of liberty. Would the Chinese government allow quoting Jefferson on that point? The US government does.

And I don't think minority protesters should be allowed to occupy public parks forever. Let them protest for a few days a year and then take the protest to their own free presses and private property. The Occupy Wall Street protesters weren't allowed to protest for just a week, they were allowed to protest for months. And they can continue to protest for as long as they want on private property. They got extensive news media coverage the Chinese government probably wouldn't have allowed. But despite having plenty of opportunity, they couldn't get the popular support they thought they deserved, despite every thoughtful voter being aware of their movement and having easy access to their message.

BenniMarch 24, 2014 10:01 PM

@Skeptical:

This seems to get off topic now but,
Your explanation is too easy. The famines where present in china for centuries.

http://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fde.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FHungersn%25C3%25B6te_in_China

And, according to wikipedia, mostly because of climate and soil. The fight against famines constitutes a large part of chinese history. The first famines were recorded in the Shang and Tang Dynasty (16-11 century before christ). It was seen as an important duty of the chinese emperor, to fight against famines with appropriate actions of the government.

But of course, I understand, Skepticals timeline begins with mao. Then, you can all blame communism. Just there was no communism in the Tang dynasty, and the famines were still there.


@False equivalence:

"What makes the Chinese government so evil is that they imprison and kill people who defy the government's illegitimate restrictions on freedom of speech, and thus impoverish the people."


Well, in his interview with spiegel, the nsa boss said, he felt that germans would see right of privacy as the americans the right of free speech.

So I think, it is safe to say, that what makes the us government so evil is that they infiltrate foreign networks, and make bulk collection of everyones messages, violating any right of privacy..


And by the way, makes the us also an evil nation is that they have death sentences in some states, and that they are killing sentenced people. Most problematic, however, is the corrupt jurisdiction system in the US.
In germany, we have a thing called "Amtsermittlungsgrundsatz". This means that the police must collect all evidence in a case. Evicence for the suspect and evidence against him. And a professional judge then reviews the evidence in a trial.
In the US, the public prosecutors just collect evidence against a suspect. And so your freedom, if you are a suspect, may depend on whether you can hire an expensive lawyer. Therefore, often poor people are convicted by american law.
Moreover, in the US, the wellfare state is reduced extremely. This means that unemployed people are forced to steal to survive, and this leads, according to wikipedia, to the fact that the US have highest rate of imprisoned persons worldwide:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gef%C3%A4ngnissystem_der_Vereinigten_Staaten

In 2006, in the US, 751 persons were in prison for every 100.000st citizen.

I think a country has the highest imprisonment rate in the world, is just evil and not a land of freedom at all.
From the one country which has the highest rate of people in prisons of the entire world, I do not want to hear the continued lies that their government would be "advocating freedom" somehow. Please, just stop that nonsense.

If the US are a land that indeed supports freedom, then please reduce the number of your people in prison. There are several ways to do this. Create a better welfare state, get a better jurisdiction system, for example.

In germany, we give the unemployed people enough money to live. You in the US are giving them nothing, forcing them to steal and letting them end up in prison. This is how "freedom" is defined by the us, with the highest rate of people in prison of the entire world.

And because you US people can not even properly educate your engineers so that they make good products, the US government has build up a worldwide bulk collection service, which it now uses for doing industrial espionage, since otherwise, your bad companies would not even get any contract in the world. This is really mean.

It is as mean as is hacking chinese universities or targeting chinese university students, or attacking european mathematics professors in TAO operations.


hermanMarch 24, 2014 10:05 PM

It is interesting that president Jimmy Carter says that he hand writes letters, in order to avoid NSA and other spying.

That is quite a stern rebuke I think.

YeahSureMarch 24, 2014 10:06 PM

@Skeptical

I appreciate the reference. But Freedom House clearly isn't unbiased. They have no interest in rating the US. The US has no numeric scores like China. Just rated Free by fiat.

No mention of Guantanamo, drones killing US citizens, people suffering in solitary, black youth disproportionately in prison, corporate control of media, NSA spying, etc. Not even right wing freedom concerns like tax-gate, 2nd amendment, religious liberty. If they are going to ignore all these issues, not even give them an examination, obviously they are biased.

What about the UN report? Different story: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/13/us-un-human-rights-abuses-nsa-drones

I live in the country, read a lot of news, I don't really need a report on the US. Nor do you. Why you put up with it? That's what makes me scratch my head. Well, I suspect that posting here is your job.

Mao was a long time ago, when minorities were treated badly in the US. I don't think I would have wanted to be in China then or a black person in Georgia either. It is always easier to point somewhere else.

I am not saying China is perfect, or better than the US. But it is trending "better" while we are -- for the last 20 years -- trending "worse". It is in the interest of the powers that be to make us think any country that we don't dominate is dangerous to us. I think they are as dangerous as we force them to be. Besides that they are filled with people like us. We don't want to be dominated. By what right do we dominate them?

Nick PMarch 24, 2014 10:23 PM

@ Rene Bastien

"How does anyone know which gear is safe to use any more? How we are to believe that crypto keys stored in HSMs are still secure?"

That's a very good question. I've never believed that at all about HSM's. The best way to look at "secure" or "trustworthy" is to do it in a context. It's rarely absolute. You must accept that *someone* can probably compromise your device. From there, question is who.

If a company in a certain country makes a HSM, then it's reasonable to assume the company or country's intelligence service might compromise it. If the company has a huge customer, they might be able to influence something enough to cause a compromise. Additionally, if their security isn't good enough, a well-funded adversary such as a TLA might infiltrate it to steal or sabotage in a way that defeats your security.

So, the system will have potential subversives. This isn't necessarily bad. You still have protection against a ton of other subversives, crooks, etc. That might make it worth the money. However, you cant trust it if your opponent is one of the aforementioned entities. My old strategy here is a distributed design where several systems are used and each are made by competing countries. The odds of collaboration are slim to none. If even one component diverges from majority, treat it as a malicous system.

@ YeahSure

"Try actually reading about China. There is a strong press that criticizes the government all the time."

One of my city's local anchors recently went over to China. He described it as a strange thing. He had to come up with his questions in advance and submit them for approval. He was advised to be careful with them if he wanted to be called on. They were somewhat controversial, but could easily be dismissed. It's probably why he was called on and got an official answer. That he needs permission to ask questions critical of Chinese policy or govt says plenty about their press over there.

@ Benni

"Why do you see china as a "bad" actor? "

Where would we begin? Censorship of their people's speech and press to preserve regime power? Forcing people with dissenting views into "re-education through labor" camps? Upping the price of neodymium several fold just because they can? Or their threats to Taiwan?

From my viewpoint, they're as evil as certain powermongers here in the US. The main difference is they're very subtle and diplomatic about most of their schemes. They seem to be everyone's friend, yet have a fait accompli strategy of developing influence on them. That's no surprise to anyone who reads Sun Tzu's The Art of War. It advocates that kind of thing. And to their credit they're good at it.

BenniMarch 24, 2014 10:47 PM

@Nick P:
"From my viewpoint, they're as evil as certain powermongers here in the US"

Well, I think i see them as a country which is still in development.
They certainly have an authoritarian government. By the way, the fact that a journalist has to submit his questions to a politician in advance, also happens often in germany. Depends on the politician.

The chinese have problems to acknowledge criticism. But that may be part of their culture. They still have to develop things like the rule of law, and their police officers may be brutal, with trials where you can not defend yourself, or you end up in prison with not trials.

But the government, with most people in prison per citizen in the world, this is the united states of america. And therefore an US person can not credibly say that he lives in the land of the free compared to china.


The problem with china as a security problem is, that they have no real copyright. I remember, there was a time when this search machine Baidu came up. You could search and find any mp3 file or video that you wanted, because they really do not have a copyright in their culture (the foreign companies had then to take measures for teaching copyright to this search machine).

As the chinese find themselves, that they must develop their country, it means, if you share your tech with a chinese, you are giving all of it to a copyshop.

But given that the US have piled up a worldwide bulk collection system, created a structure for sharing nsa knowledge with us companies, and use this for economical espionage, I actually see the chinese as a similar security threat as the US, if the US are currently not even a larger security threat.


But I think this discussion should now really get back to technical things.


Nick PMarch 24, 2014 11:28 PM

@ Benni

"Well, I think i see them as a country which is still in development.
They certainly have an authoritarian government. By the way, the fact that a journalist has to submit his questions to a politician in advance, also happens often in germany. Depends on the politician.
The chinese have problems to acknowledge criticism. But that may be part of their culture. They still have to develop things like the rule of law, and their police officers may be brutal, with trials where you can not defend yourself, or you end up in prison with not trials."

All of that sounded... like a politician in the United States. A few highlights:

"i see them as a country which is still in development"

(this evil) "also happens in germany" (so we should overlook it in China?)

"chinese have problems to acknowledge criticism."

THAT takes the medal. Ties into your prison claim as well since Chinese don't count their "re-education" camps as prisons so the *real* number of prisoners is higher than they say. US, as I've said does plenty evil, certainly has a ridiculous amount in prison. Yet, Chinese "problems to acknowledge criticism" results in brutality, prison, labor camps, and/or death for people. Most of that is rare here even for US govt's enemies.

"But given that the US have piled up a worldwide bulk collection system, created a structure for sharing nsa knowledge with us companies, and use this for economical espionage, I actually see the chinese as a similar security threat as the US, if the US are currently not even a larger security threat."

Chinese have been massively infiltrating us for decades stealing our secrets. They were doing it to develop their country's capabilities probably in hopes of exceeding us one day. They've developed considerably as a result of massive effort + massive IP theft. Yet again, someone reading your comment might get the impression that NSA was the bigger bad guy here and China just had to do something in response. And the IP theft was just a cultural or legal thing. Far from the truth in both cases.

I just wonder why you're protecting the bad guys of the East while denouncing the evils of the West. That's strange for someone apparently concerned with the greater good across the globe.

DBMarch 25, 2014 1:17 AM

Sigh. Ok, details about my life that will allow the NSA to much more easily pinpoint exactly who I am: I'm a regular white American. I've lived in mainland China (PRC) for several years in my past. Those are my qualifications for this:

They do NOT have freedom of the press. They DO imprison and kill people who criticize the government. They DO have millennia of cultural bias towards kind of an "emperor mentality"... which means that it would be hard to force our way of thinking of what "democracy" should be like upon them, and have it work. Maybe slowly over time (100 years someone suggested, I think it's more generational, or a couple generations). They ARE feeding their population much better than they used to, and if you think that's no small feat, they'll be happy to send a tiny fraction of their population over to the USA to prove to us just how hard it is! Like, say, 100 million or so. If you don't believe my last statement, they USED to make it hard to get a visa to come here, then they wisened up and made it much easier so WE had to make it very hard...

Regardless of who's a "good" and "bad" actor government, we, the USA, SHOULD be treating all foreign individual humans with a basic level of human rights though! Just going with "well they're evil, so they have no rights" is wrong, especially when applied to whole populations. If you want to "punish" individual foreign leaders for misbehaving, that's one thing, but don't oppress their populations further, that's equally wrong/evil/immoral/etc too!

DBMarch 25, 2014 1:25 AM

Correction:

"they USED to make it hard to get a visa to come here, then they wisened up and made it much easier so WE had to make it very hard"

should be:

"they USED to make it hard to get a passport to come here, then they wisened up and made it much easier so WE had to make it very hard to get a visa"

FalseEquivalenceMarch 25, 2014 3:04 AM

Benni wrote:

"From the one country which has the highest rate of people in prisons of the entire world, I do not want to hear the continued lies that their government would be "advocating freedom" somehow. Please, just stop that nonsense."

So you think the US government is almost as bad as the Chinese government because we keep people who commit crimes in prison longer than other countries do? Are you serious?

The flaws of the US that you cite are minor compared to the massive injustice of the Chinese dictatorship. And many of the flaws you cite either aren't true or are things that reasonable people can disagree about whether the US way is worse or actually better. Even the best governments are going to have some injustice, but that doesn't make them anywhere close to the massive injustice of the Chinese dictatorship.

Clive RobinsonMarch 25, 2014 3:27 AM

@ Nick P,

When it comes to IP have a look back in US history at one point the US was as bad at IP theft as we think China and some other "less developed/democratised" nations are currently. And coincidently at a similar developmnt stage.

The US has discovered that strong IP legislation favours large slow monopolistic organisations which makes a few very wealthy and thus makes the two way greasing between them and politicians so much simpler for both sides and the detriment of the rest of us who get enslaved/ensurfed by these organisations. Just look at the secret arangment by Apple and co to not employ people from others in their cosy little cartel thus preventing fair working and wage practices thus significantly boosting corporate profits by ensurfing what should be "free labour".

Strong IP legislation favours cartels by "cross licensing" where by two large organisations agree to use each others IP without payment but small companies are "locked out" or licensed / litigated into bankruptcy.

But the US is pushing in all trade negotiations and treaties that US courts and US companies have supremacy over IP and that it's the countries governments that have to cover all damages these courts impose without the right to have the countries judiciary strike them down and little or no
right to representation or appeal in US courts. These damages are to be based not on reality or credibility but on company projections and the international court/tribunal is to be run by the coperations which from whats been said will be primarily if not exclusivly US banks and coperations...

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBREA1H03M20140218%3Firpc%3D932

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4409211

http://www.occupycorporatism.com/bankers-stand-profit-trans-pacific-partnership/

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/14/tran-d14.html

WinterMarch 25, 2014 4:24 AM

@Clive&Nick
IP in all its forms is also a trade barrier used to protect domestic companies. That is still the most useful tool after most other trade barriers and protectionist policies have been outlawed.

Patent law is now effectively used as a way to tax foreign companies in the USA. If you bring a new product to market in the USA (any product), some domestic party will get a patent settlement making you pay up.

Comparable for copyright, where all the real protection is limited to domestic parties by way of registration. Foreign companies having their products copied cannot resort to statutory damage, but have to try to convince the home town court of all and every damage.

Jonathan WilsonMarch 25, 2014 5:24 AM

There is a LOT of hypocrisy in big western IP holders in that on the one hand they complain loudly that countries like China are ripping off their products yet they continue to allow their "secret" designs and IP for everything from GPS devices to golf clubs to be handed over to manufacturing companies in the very same countries they are accusing of ripping off their designs just so they can save a few bucks in manufacturing.

Its already happening to some extent but if I was the Mexican government, I would be making the country as friendly to manufacturing operations as humanly possible (including cheap labor, cheap energy and whatever else it takes). Its a win for everyone. Mexico wins by getting more factories, more jobs and a better economy. America wins because someone taking a job in Mexico in a new factory is one less person who might want to cross the border illegally into the US.
And big companies win because they can get their products made for the North American market at prices that (once you factor in the cheaper cost of transporting things from Mexico vs China) could easily be made close enough to Chinese costs AND they dont have the risk that the Mexican government is going to steal their IP and start making bootleg products on the side.

Heck, the big companies can own the factories directly and have total oversight (unlike in China with its strict rules regarding the need to partner with a local company)

Jean MeslierMarch 25, 2014 6:17 AM

@YeahSure, @Benni

You seem to be suffering a case of sarchasm wrt Chelloveck's comment. You may want to get that looked at.

unknownMarch 25, 2014 7:52 AM

@Chelloveck

Your definition of "freedom" frightens me. Your freedom ends where the right of others start.

seanMarch 25, 2014 8:36 AM

I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic here:

Chelloveck • March 24, 2014 1:52 PM
How can you possibly compare the US and Chinese actions vis-a-vis Huawei? It's completely different! On the one hand you have an equipment manufacturer compromised by a bad national actor. On the other hand you have an equipment manufacturer compromised by a *good* national actor. Apples and oranges, Bruce! Why do you hate freedom so much?

BenniMarch 25, 2014 9:07 AM

@False equivalence:
So you think the US government is almost as bad as the Chinese government because we keep people who commit crimes in prison longer than other countries do? Are you serious?

Well, usually, a government has the necessary structures that prevents so many people from being end up in prism. As long as the us have the highest imprisonment rate of the world, the country can not be seen as a free one.


Also, the press in the us is not free. In germany, there is, with perhaps one exception, not one single magazine, that finds anything the german government is doing, would be ok. The press is only there to correct. In the US, there are "embedded" journalists, when the us go to war in Iraq, with the press going into a strange jingoism. From what I see on cnn, this is not really a free press.

For example, this is the CNN article on Huawei:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/23/technology/security/nsa-china-huawei/index.html

It reads: The NSA was also interested in tapping into Huawei's extensive networks, enabling it to monitor communications of Huawei customers in other countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, and Cuba.

Whilst cnn mentions cuba, iran and afghanistan, it deliberately ommits that the nsa apparently found it also interesting, to plant massive bugs into chinas network, and that they massively bugged the network of india, as this graphics from spiegel shows:

http://wissen.spiegel.de/wissen/image/show.html?did=104673958&aref=imageArchive/2013/07/27/CO-SP-2013-031-0022-01-GR.JPG&thumb=false

If you read the cnn article, it looks as the nsa would go against terror and communism.
The fact that india is the largest democracy in the world, and that the nsa plants their bugs en masse there, too, would distort the worldview cnn readers should have. So, cnn deliberately omits all these things. This is not a free press, but it looks more like a propaganda machine, only pretending to be free.


But I really think we should get to more technical terms in the discussion.

What is notable in the Huawei article from german spiegel is, that the nsa apparently had copied all emails from huawei employees.

http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/spiegel-nsa-spioniert-chinesische-staatsfuehrung-und-huawei-aus-a-960151.html

This happens, because the chinese apparently never heard of things like encryption or pgp.

A neighbor of mine has a huawei router, a model called speedport ip 724V that is sold by Deutsche Telekom for dsl. It often crashes, sometimes, it does not route phone calls, and then it must be plugged of, and in. Then it works. If you reset it, it apparently automagically connects to the isp and updates its firmware. And it has many maintenance ports. One also can not configure (i.e open or close) the following ports:
21,1900,5060,5061,7547,37215,37443,50000-50019,54058-56003,56005

I fear that this function, to let the router automatically update, was also build into Huaweis professional router models for Isp's.

The Headwater exploit reads:
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/01/headwater_nsa_e.html

(TS//SI//REL) HEADWATER PBD implant will be transferred remotely over the Internet to the selected target router by Remote Operations Center (ROC) personnel

This is easy, with that update function, especially, if you have a quantum insert method at your hand, where you can answer faster.

Ive never tried to hack my neighbors huawei router myself. I don't know whether I can persuade my neighbor to buy a new router and give me this thing for hacking purposes. Would be interested, what happens during it crashing, and during the update process.

I certaninly think, that there are no deliberately planted backdoors in Huawei routers.

One must assume that it is more likely, for a company which can not use pgp for mail, that it would not even know how to build a backdoor.

China is a development country. This here is a picture of the wonderfull air quality in china:
http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/china-luftverschmutzung-in-73-staedten-ueber-dem-limit-a-957592.html

This is because they have powerstations running with coal, and they have very good filters on their chimneys. You certainly can buy one of these chinese filters, if you are running a coal driven powerstation. But then you must expect the quality you can expect from a development country.

The sad truth is, however, that american routers are no better nowadays, and are similarly as open and insecure as can be:
https://github.com/elvanderb/TCP-32764

Also, it is not with all products coming from china, that they are that bad. IBM sold their notebook series to lenovo, and lenovo is making good products with the IBM line. The more expensive thinkpad models can be recommended to any businessman or government employee, If you install a proper linux system on it, as windows can not be trusted.


@Nick P:

"Chinese have been massively infiltrating us for decades stealing our secrets. They were doing it to develop their country's capabilities probably in hopes of exceeding us one day. They've developed considerably as a result of massive effort + massive IP theft. "

Sorry, but I do not see this happening.
Neither do the chinese have a quantum insert method, neither are they listening on the internet's backbones, neither do they copy everything from servers worldwide, like google or facebook, neither do the chinese make an nsakey into windows. This is what the nsa is doing. The chinese are only able to make most of their surveillance within their country, where they also censor. The US do their surveillance worldwide.

Therefore, the us are, currently, a larger threat.

When I am writing this comment, it gets send over a provider, where a european secret service gets a copy, feeding it directly to the nsa. On the contrary, I am sure, that no chinese secret service listens on the fibers over which my comment is sent.


In china, there are certaninly many hackers, some governmentally funded, and very good, but often, the chinese hacker groups are private groups, and they are simply many, because in china there are many people living, and with many people, you have more hackers.

I also do not see chinese infiltrating and "stealing our secrets" for decades. Actually, most pirated product copies are simple and very cheap.

As it is with Huawei, it still remains to be seen whether they can produce real good high tech, even if it is copied. I think, for a start, they should learn pgp first to encrypt their mail.

It maybe, however, that the US are also not able to produce good tech, so they call it "stealing a secret" when someone copies a teapot from them.
That to say, one should better not share the most recent blueprints of your research and development lab with a group of chinese, as copyright is something foreign for them.

By the way, Bill Clinton only has sent 2 emails in his life, because he thinks email is not secure:

http://nypost.com/2000/11/09/bill-only-fdr-has-loved-this-job-as-i-have/

And he’s looking forward to going on some “real vacations again” and playing “the great golf courses in England, Scotland and Ireland.”

There’s also a picture of Clinton sitting at a computer. He likes eBay and Amazon.com – but doesn’t send e-mail because he doesn’t think it’s secure.

“I e-mailed John Glenn in space. And I e-mailed some Marines and sailors on a ship at Christmas. That was it.”

This is, what the us have done to the global internet, not the chinese (even though they abuse their abillities more than the nsa in their own country)

Nick PMarch 25, 2014 9:24 AM

@ Clive Robinson

Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'll treat it as a test about whether to do business in the countries listed. If they submit, then I won't. ;)

"The Obama administration has deemed negotiations to be classified information -- banning members of Congress from discussing the American negotiating position with the press or the public. Congressional staffers have been restricted from viewing the documents."

That particular one jumped out at me. It's further evidence we live in a fake democracy. Key negotiations that will affect our laws are done in secret. That staffers can't see the documents is ridiculous as staffers give Congressmen much of their knowledge and input on a subject. Isolating the staffers from this discussion would only be done to hide wrongdoing of some sort.

Nick PMarch 25, 2014 10:42 AM

@ Benni

"Sorry, but I do not see this happening.
Neither do the chinese have a quantum insert method, neither are they listening on the internet's backbones, neither do they copy everything from servers worldwide, like google or facebook, neither do the chinese make an nsakey into windows. This is what the nsa is doing. The chinese are only able to make most of their surveillance within their country, where they also censor. The US do their surveillance worldwide."

Decades of evidence totally contradicts your point. Every year, Chinese spies are prosecuted here for stealing intellectual property or classified information. Here's one list. They don't even try to hide that they bankrupt US companies by cloning products with stolen I.P. Often rather obvious. Further, Mandiant reported their network monitoring systems caught one group of hackers in China that stole terabytes of data from "141 companies spanning 20 major industries."

That's all just this past decade. The Mandiant trace was just five or six years. That doesn't even include all of the human spies busted prior for acquiring military and business secrets. That it's systematic is clear from them having a military unit dedicated to it, them supporting their companies despite evidence of IP theft, and that Chinese spies are consistently caught doing this stuff year after year. That many confessed it was their state-sponsored mission is icing on the cake.

Previously, people here discussed that one new member was an NSA apologist here to specifically cover that agency's behind. Now I'm wondering if we have one for China, too. You believe the US engages in economic espionage with very little concrete evidence*. Yet, it baffles me that you don't believe China's spies are a major threat despite decades of hard data ranging from traces of network data exfiltration to confessions of Chinese spies.

* Note: I agree with you that US helps some of their companies with international contracts. Evidence supports that. I haven't seen evidence of US doing massive IP thefts like China is doing as we're the main I.P holders and hence typically the target rather than the perp. Honestly, though, if it were the other way around I figure the US would be doing the same stuff.

"When I am writing this comment, it gets send over a provider, where a european secret service gets a copy, feeding it directly to the nsa. On the contrary, I am sure, that no chinese secret service listens on the fibers over which my comment is sent."

Now, we're getting to the American threat. The NSA probably intercepts your communication, yes. I'd rather that program go away. What's the level of risk to you personally, though? Have you or anyone you know done prison time due to this? Were your American contracts turned away? Have you or your friends been executed? You or others' companies went bankrupt because your IP was stolen/cloned?

If you were in China and targeted by them, these things can happen to you. If NSA targets you, you might do time if your in the drug trade or involved in another serious crime. You might get hit with a missile if you're in the Middle East suspected of terrorism. Past that, we've seen them do almost nothing in terms of real abuses. Nothing compared to China.

Note: I'm excluding collecting information on government officials, military, and treaty negotiations. *All* major governments do that. It's the whole reason their intelligence agencies exist and supported by the people most of the time. I draw the line at a point where keeping an eye on other side is fine, but causing their people harm using intelligence services isn't.

"In china, there are certaninly many hackers, some governmentally funded, and very good, but often, the chinese hacker groups are private groups, and they are simply many, because in china there are many people living, and with many people, you have more hackers."

Let's use that one for United States. In the US, there are many hackers and surveillance systems being built. They are often done by private groups called defence contractors. There's simply a large defense industry here so with more industry you have more funding for stuff like that. So, no need to worry because the people inventing the evil stuff work for private sector (contracting to govt)rather than directly working for govt. Nonsense.

"As it is with Huawei, it still remains to be seen whether they can produce real good high tech, even if it is copied. I think, for a start, they should learn pgp first to encrypt their mail."

Huawei is a good example of them turning our IP into successful products. They then used the money to do their own R&D. The common model seems to be to use our IP to get a head start on their own work and replace any purchases from our companies with local ones. Far as bad actor approaches go, it's a smart one and again consistent with Chinese war strategy (i.e. Sun Tzu).

"It maybe, however, that the US are also not able to produce good tech, so they call it "stealing a secret" when someone copies a teapot from them. "

Nobody is copying a teapot. We're talking exact duplicates of control systems, exotic tech, and stuff that took up to a billion dollars to develop. Nice strawman, though, as someone hearing it would've thought the types of losses were stuff that people throw together in an hour.

"By the way, Bill Clinton only has sent 2 emails in his life, because he thinks email is not secure"

That means he's smarter than many. Email has no inherent security so anyone in the middle can intercept it. That includes the Echelon/Carnivore systems he presided over, Chinese IP thieves, private black hats, shady employees of carriers, and so on. I've always advised people to *never* use email for anything even slightly confidential. Like you said, they should use PGP or something to encrypt their mail. A hundred copies of it for business and its partners is way cheaper than replacing their IP.

I've also advised anyone concerned about their IP to protect it with strong methods and avoid China period. If they go to China, they must accept that the Chinese will steal their IP. Some decide that's OK as it might happen anyway & they can make plenty money in China. (Shrugs) Best to avoid that country, though, just as I've said people concerned about privacy should avoid Five Eyes countries as it doesn't exist there.

YeahSureMarch 25, 2014 10:58 AM

@Sean re: Chelloveck

I hope he is being sarcastic. How can you tell? His comments are no more jingoistic than many others...

YeahSureMarch 25, 2014 11:12 AM

@FalseEquivalence I believe you are correct that we are allowed to say more challenging things about the government in the US than in China.

But how much do you actually hear in the media? I haven't heard a call for socialism on TV for twenty years, for example. There is no need to suppress people if you can silence their voice. The corporate media largely determines what news people like yourself get to hear, effectively censoring other voices. When a group like Occupy actually does capture the news, it is shut down. Remember the guy who wrote anti-bank statements in washable chalk on the sidewalk and was threatened with 10 or 20 years in prison? Do they do that to kids making hopscotch boards? The guy who chronicled animal rights people and was thrown in jail for it? And of course there was (is?) a law in Texas that made disparaging a farm product illegal. And bugging journalists and pulling their phone records also limits the ability of the press to gather news and speak out.

So far on a whole US citizens have been content and so free speech presents little threat to the powers that be. But now that the incomes of average citizens are tanking, they won't be as docile and suddenly all our police are dressed like SWAT and there are cameras and surveillance everywhere. Protestors are tracked by the police as terrorists. People are frightened to speak out because they know they are being surveilled. I think the outlook for free speech in our country is not good.

vas pupMarch 25, 2014 11:38 AM

@FalseEquivalence: "To say they are the same would be like saying that if the mafia hacked the FBI network then the FBI would be hypocritical to complain because the FBI had been hacking the mafia networks." Agree, but you that FBI (as organization, not some corrupt 'bad apples' as in any gov structure) never ever borrow billions from mafia. Get the point?
Your logic brings the conclusion "I don't like you, but I do like your money". As usually, in any analysis I want put myself in other side (Chinese in this case) shoes. Imagine, you (as a person) take from me as a loan huge amount of money. You do pay me interest regularly, never claimed you are not going return principal back, but behind my back or even openly you badmouthing me and/or do something unfriendly towards me. Moreover, you are in position of power (cop, prosecutor, judge, special Agent with feds) or have close connection with listed. Then, I have reasonable suspicion that I may never ever get my principle back neither by force nor by law. The only way on my side to have leverage on you is asymmetric (see San Zu "Art of War") tactic like collecting as much as possible information about you which may destroy your reputation, marriage, employment, etc. and keep it as lien on you. I will take care of your health & wealth and (as soon as you timely pay interest) will never want something bad happened to you. (What is milk out of the sick or dead cow?), but I want you put aside your own stupid thoughts or suggestions from your 'smart' friends that you could just screw me without any serious repercussions. Trust but verify! I hope point taken.

SkepticalMarch 25, 2014 12:55 PM

@YeahSure: I appreciate the reference. But Freedom House clearly isn't unbiased. They have no interest in rating the US. The US has no numeric scores like China. Just rated Free by fiat.

Look in the full report on freedom of the press. You'll find rankings for each country, including the US, and a description of the methodology used. Freedom House is actually an excellent source, and I urge you to read the article on the PRC there.

No mention of Guantanamo ...

It's a report on freedom of the press. It also doesn't mention air quality in DC vs Beijing, or the best place for noodles in Kashgar.

Well, I suspect that posting here is your job.

That's ridiculous. It's not.

There is no need to suppress people if you can silence their voice.

It's a little funny to read this on a blog that just finished hosting a TAO Catalog marathon. The US isn't silencing anyone, and in fact, as it's very hard to sue for defamation in the US if you're a public figure, and as the US believes that the government cannot selectively discourage particular viewpoints no matter how noxious (such as that of neo-nazis), your expression is actually more protected in the US than even other Western countries.

BenniMarch 25, 2014 1:14 PM

@Nick P:

"Now, we're getting to the American threat. The NSA probably intercepts your communication, yes. I'd rather that program go away. What's the level of risk to you personally, though? Have you or anyone you know done prison time due to this? Were your American contracts turned away? Have you or your friends been executed? You or others' companies went bankrupt because your IP was stolen/cloned?"

The current officials say they would not give any nsa information to their companies.

Perhaps because of this the special collection service is monitoring the german software company sap, as the spooks of the german nsa special collection service tell to the press:

http://www.n-tv.de/politik/NSA-soll-de-Maiziere-statt-Merkel-abhoeren-article12333506.html


For example, the nsa boss says:

SPIEGEL: In November 1999, you visited Germany and went to the NSA station in Bad Aibling, and afterwards you wrote a letter to the Chancellery where you assured them that you are not conducting espionage against …

Hayden: … Germany, that's right.

SPIEGEL: It could have been a wonderful friendship.

Hayden: I took as a principal position that it was worth it to me to stop collection activities in Germany -- not on Germany -

So, the nsa said in 2009 they would not spy on germany at all.
Then in 2013, it came out that they are closely monitoring 300 people, among them, the company SAP.

This means, that one can not believe it when american agencies are claiming they would not conduct espionage.


One problem is, that as usual for highly illegal activities, there probably are no written documents available.

There is no written policy, that the nsa spies on foreign governments. Yet they do that. And they even told that they would not do that, until the snowden documents came out.

This means that, if you know an american service listens on the net, you have to assume that the american government gives this to their companies.

Do you want to say, Edward snowden is a liar, when he says to european parliament:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201403/20140307ATT80674/20140307ATT80674EN.pdf

To directly answer your question, yes, global surveillance capabilities are being used on a
daily basis for the purpose of economic espionage. That a major goal of the US Intelligence
Community is to produce economic intelligence is the worst kept secret in Washington.


Now you are saying
You believe the US engages in economic espionage with very little concrete evidence*.

So you say snowden lied to european parliament.

And yes, certainly, the economic espionage of the us may not be the simple "copying of foreign tech" as the chinese do.
For example, if the us want to sell their aeroplanes, they may simply spy on the managers of competiting firms. Just to find out, e.g. where are the weaknesses in their proposed contracts, so that the american company can present a better offer. This may, often, just be a better price of a product.

Such a kind of espionage is harder to notice, than simply copying products. Since if you copy products, you will eventually find this copied product and sue the company.

I believe the way how the industrial espionage is done by the nsa is more subtle.

More of a sort, where they get information on the contracts of competitors, and then give this via their advocacy centre of the trade ministry, to their us companies, who then can come up with a better pricing model, for example.

Please note that something similar may have happened in the huawei case, where the emphasis on the nsa was, appart from finding out how to abuse the automatical firmware update, how the company works.

Especially, nsa stole the entire client list, witb more than 1400 clients of Huawei. Now stealing the list with all clients of Huawei does not make sense, if you only want to know how to make a headwater exploit. Since if a target uses a huawei router, you know this by other means, involving the spying on your target.

But stealing the client list of Huawei makes perfect sense, if you want to find out how the company "ticks", how they make up their pricing models, their contracts, and who are the people who are buying huawei tech.

So if cisco, now goes to the advocacy centre of the us trade ministry, and asks,

"by the way, do you know someone,who might perhaps be interested in cisco routers".. then the advocacy dentre can say "Um well, we know from an absolute reliable source, that there are these and these companies who are interested on routers. But be sure, a competitor of yours, Huawei, makes very cheap products. So if you approach your possible clients, please make sure, that your offer is appropriately priced"-

I blieve this is the way, how the us industrial espionage works.

Otherwise, it would not be necessary to go after the office software company sap. SAP is not used by targets related to national security. And it has no ties to government whatsoever.


derpMarch 25, 2014 1:18 PM

your expression is actually more protected in the US than even other Western countries.

Tell that to Tarik Mehanna. (sp)

SkepticalMarch 25, 2014 1:20 PM

@vas pup: we should take this to the Squid thread if you want to discuss, but your analogy is misleading. The PRC purchased US bonds, just as US citizens and countries across the world do. In the case of the PRC, they bought them to strengthen their foreign currency reserves. Why not just buy dollars you ask? Because US Treasury bonds are considered the near equivalent of cash by banks across the world, and at least they earn some return while being held.

The PRC can freely sell those bonds, hold on to them, or buy more of them. The US makes payments to whoever happens to hold the bonds. This isn't quite the same as a loan you get from the bank.

As to who is a more risky prospect, the 10 year PRC bond yields twice what the 10 year US bond does, i.e. the PRC pays double what the US does to raise money in the bond market, and the PRC debt has a lower credit rating than the US by all three major ratings agencies.

Anyway, this is all OT, but happy to discuss more in Squid thread.

vas pupMarch 25, 2014 1:56 PM

@Skeptical. Thank you for clarification. I like to have strong opponent who attacks ideas/point of view not personality or sticking labels based on facts. May I ask you for just one clarification: in the case e.g. China "anshlussed" Taiwan (or other contested isles) as Russia Crimea, do you think the US will still pay for bonds in possession of Chinese rather than not pay under similar economic sanctions? The answer like 'we are not considering speculative scenario is not accepted'. All security (including Chinese economic) is based on analysis of prospective scenarios and mitigating response, meaning: Is that obligation of the US to by bonds back unconditional or may be affected by (1) political factors (except, as reasonably understood, if direct military confrontation between two takes place) or (2) decision of US court which did not consider international obligation as source of law (if I am wrong, please provide me with facts - thanks again)?
And once again, that is good to have different opinions, because when many thinks similar, most of them don't think at all.

mooMarch 25, 2014 3:11 PM

Pot calls kettle a bunch of dirty commie hackers.

Seriously, it comes as no surprise that the USA hacks major foreign corporations for the economic as well as security benefits. I'm a little surprised it took this long for them to get outed. All the complaining about Chinese companies hacking the U.S. last year was too much to be a coincidence.

Its weird. Ten years ago, I would have believed they were not so dumb as to completely cede the moral high ground to countries like Russia and China. Nowadays I totally expect this level of hypocracy and stupidity from the U.S. government, and am neither surprised nor particularly dismayed when they deliver.

AlbertMarch 25, 2014 8:28 PM

Isn't it ironic that the NSA is stealing the Huawei source code that Huawei stole from Nortel, Alcatel, Lucent and others?

WinterMarch 26, 2014 4:43 AM

@Skeptical
"In the case of the PRC, they bought them to strengthen their foreign currency reserves."

Not quite. The PRC obtains mountains of dollars from selling stuff to the USA. Much more dollars than they could ever spend on oil or stuff from the USA. (due to the massive trade imbalance).

The USA prevent Chinese from the PRC to spend their dollars buying useful USA property like companies or real estate. So the only option is to buy government bonds.

It is the same scheme used with oil producing countries.

Effectively, the Chinese are selling products on credit to the USA. I am confident that the USA will find a way to bail out of these bonds, e.g., by depreciating the dollar or some other trick.

Wesley ParishMarch 26, 2014 6:16 AM

I've refrained from commenting in much of the pro- and anti-US debate raging on this site, for the very good reason that neither has made as much sense as they would like to believe.

I would however, like to point out one salient feature that everybody seems to have neglected - form follows function in political science and law as much as it does in biology, physics and engineering.

To wit, the US has long held a hegemony over the states of Latin America and the Carribean. If you believe the propaganda of the Cold War, the comparison is between the United States in Europe and the Soviet Union in Europe, and the Soviet Union naturally comes off worse. When you realize that the Latin America and the Carribean are the US's "near abroad" comparable to the Soviet Union's Eastern Europe, and you factor in the various brutal civil wars in the region between the criminals in charge and the reformers, and you understand that the criminals in charge were fully supported by the US all the way to the hilt, the US and the Soviet Union come out practicly equal.

form follows function, you see, and a Great Power is not nice to its weaker neighbours, unless they have very powerful friends.

Form follows function guarantees that the United States will try to control the PRC, and form follows function will guarantee that the PRC will not take kindly to that.

Of course, believing that the US is guaranteed to be supernaturally wise in its dealings with the PRC is, well, a sign of selective gullibility. Skeptical is not in fact Skeptical at all. In this context I wish for as much information on both parties to be available to as many parties, inculding the citizens of both states, as possible.

Form follows function, and when the function concerned is avoiding acute embarrassment due to stupidity - the case in point being the arms control talks between the Soviet Union and the United States following the breakdown of the ANZUS alliance, when both sides wished to reassure the world's general public that they were serious about the talks for once - when avoiding acute embarrassment is the issue, I believe we might see some action. And the longer the acute embarrassment goes on, the worse it will be to try to wiggle out of actually getting something done.

vas pupMarch 26, 2014 11:14 AM

@Winter: "The USA prevent Chinese from the PRC to spend their dollars buying useful USA property like companies or real estate. So the only option is to buy government bonds." What is related to companies, that is not bad idea when company is directly involved in National Security (e.g.direct contract with DARPA) of critical infrastructure (e.g.huge data brokers like credit reporting agency). What is related to real estate, then Chinese could do miracle in such are as Detroit if allowed to buy land or other real estate as they do in Africa not only "exploit" national resources and people, but building local infrastructure: schools, stadiums, health care outposts, roads, power plants, etc. In this case, they get support of local population regardless of person next in charge in the capital of particular country with no aircraft carrier presence or other military or paramilitary operations. Chinese understood that people as the most productive force of the capitalism
substantially resonate with care (carrot) rather than enforcement (stick). And you can't stop huge "infiltration" of students with Chinese roots into the US colleges (IT, math, engineering, other critical occupations - not lawyers or investment bankers), because they beat all others with their hard work, commitment, knowledge, skills and persistence.

PJMarch 26, 2014 11:51 AM

I'm fairly new to this site and security in general, but one of this site's raisons d'etre appears to be to point out that even the US government violates rights.

Chellovek's irony is not fully evident but is clear enough to receive the benefit of the doubt. Some people might continue to view the US as a good actor but not so good as to exclaim the word good. He might have done better to put the word in quotes, however.

Additionally, the question, "Why do you hate freedom so much?" is so over-the-top that I can only imagine it coming from someone who's being ironic rather than someone who's criticizing an opposing viewpoint. I read his comment as considering China and the US similar in their actions toward foreign entities.

It is not a government's responsibility to protect the rights of foreign citizens not present within its borders; it's responsibility is to protect the rights of its own citizens, the performance of which duty the US government does less-and-less. Though just by being pseudo-capitalistic, the US continues to exceed China in terms of freedom. No nation is completely free, though the US came closest.

For those who consider food and crimes in response to hunger a right, please consider that only actions that don't violate the rights of others can be rights. One can not have a right to a commodity and a crime is a crime. Perhaps some current crimes in certain nations should not be criminalized, but theft is not one of these. Governments do not and/or have no business operating farms, etc.. To feed those who can't or won't feed themselves, a government must steal from those who do produce. The government's job is to prevent others from interfering with the transaction between two willing parties, the consumer and the seller. When commodities become rights, a producer can not be allowed to refuse to sell or give away what he has produced and is therefore a slave, his rights having been violated by the government whose responsibility it was to protect. In considering what is and is not a right, the question is, at whose expense? Freedom must necessarily include the possibility of failure, starvation, and death, though only in consequence of one's own actions. Someone who is starving can not claim a right to what he has not earned. He can only claim what is rightfully his or request help from another willing individual.

All the evil in the world is in consequece of those in power believing they have a right or responsibility to force others to sacrifice.

unknownMarch 26, 2014 12:23 PM

@PJ: "It is not a government's responsibility to protect the rights of foreign citizens not present within its borders; it's responsibility is to protect the rights of its own citizens, the performance of which duty the US government does less-and-less."

Agreed. But a government should not violate the rights of foreign citizens either, am I wrong?

StephenMarch 26, 2014 12:28 PM

"So you think the US government is almost as bad as the Chinese government because we keep people who commit crimes in prison longer than other countries do? Are you serious?"

Well, China does kill its prisoners at a much higher rate than the US. According to Death Penalty Worldwide (http://www.deathpenaltyworldwide.org), in 2013, China had 1 execution per 446,204 persons (0.22/100K). The US had 1 execution per 7,916,552 persons (0.013/100K).

Because the Chinese execution rate is a state secret (!!??) the above number is an estimate based on publicly available information. If it is correct then, on a per capita basis, the Chinese government kills prisoners roughly 17 time as often as in the US. That is bound to have an effect the incarceration rate.

PJMarch 26, 2014 12:39 PM

@unknown,
It should not violate the rights of foreign citizens if it does not wish to provoke hostilities. If at war, a government should not let the rights of its enemy's citizens stop it from acting efficiently and decisively. It is a government's responsibility to protect its citizens from foreign aggressors. The violation of the rights of foreign citizens does not affect the validity of a government; the violation of the rights of a citizen by its own government does affect the validity of the government, to the extent the government violates the rights of its citizens.

BJPMarch 26, 2014 12:40 PM

@Stephen

Incarceration rate and duration-of-incarceration, definitely.

If one needs to lie to make a point, statistics are one's best friend.

WinterMarch 26, 2014 1:23 PM

@Stephen
On a USAprison population of close to 2.5 million, the 3000 or so executions in China would not make a dent.

About the land of the free:
6,977,700 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2009.

Wikipedia

AnuraMarch 26, 2014 1:23 PM

@Winter

"I am confident that the USA will find a way to bail out of these bonds, e.g., by depreciating the dollar or some other trick."

We honestly don't need a "trick" - we aren't really at risk of having a debt crisis right now, barring stupid political decisions (which is a strong possibility, but unrelated to our ability to pay back our debt from an economic standpoint). As long as we maintain a deficit that is sufficiently lower than nominal GDP growth (which is, of course, easier if you have strong growth), then our ability to pay back our debt will grow, and there will be no looming debt crisis and no reason to worry about reducing debt.

vas pupMarch 26, 2014 1:59 PM

@PJ: "Freedom must necessarily include the possibility of failure, starvation, and death, though only in consequence of one's own actions. Someone who is starving can not claim a right to what he has not earned." I agree that personal responsibility should not be substituted by Government. On the other hand, what you suggested is not path to tranquility in society. I am pro income inequality based on personal efforts, merits, skills, knowledge when behind that income/profit are either useful goods or services. So, I am pro-capitalism because when no stimulus (more income) no progress, BUT such inequality has its stimulative force only to particular point until result is strong and dominated middle class, and the corruption point when either such profit is created out of 'bubbles', thin air, vices, etc. or discrepancy in income is so big, it creates small elite with weakening middle class and others (1% versus 99% - please don't take those digits for the face value, just get the idea). Government in democratic society should represent interests as much % of population as possible (that is mapping strong middle class) + provide social tranquility (law&order). That is why some countries in Europe (based on calculations) decided to give something (redistribute) to those who starving as a temporary/emergency measure. It is working like cane when you recovering our of fracture, but not as your permanent artificial limb, meaning I agree with you 100% that permanent 'free riders' exploiting the system of temporary redistribution should be kicked out of the system (like Medicaid/ Medicare /Insurance fraud), but there are always those in need of such help for a long term when their situation was not result of their free choice. That is why in order those (disabled/chronically sick in reality, not by fraud; seniors, orphans you name it) living in democratic society have chance to live with dignity (not luxury or travel around the globe on SSI), it is required to 'decrease number of layers of caviar' (so to speak) somebody put on their bread in order that somebody just have a piece of bread. That is just my private opinion on your post.

WinterMarch 26, 2014 2:17 PM

@PJ
"It is not a government's responsibility to protect the rights of foreign citizens not present within its borders;"

It is a government's responsibility to ensure that none of it's agents do not violate human rights of people inside nor outside its borders.

WinterMarch 26, 2014 2:20 PM

@Anura
"As long as we maintain a deficit that is sufficiently lower than nominal GDP growth (which is, of course, easier if you have strong growth), then our ability to pay back our debt will grow, and there will be no looming debt crisis and no reason to worry about reducing debt."

Not only must you be able to pay back your debts, you must be willing to do so. The crisis in 2008 showed that that willingness was lacking. Also, it is fairly easy to deprecate the dollar enough to bail out of the debt.

SkepticalMarch 26, 2014 2:31 PM

@Wesley: When you realize that the Latin America and the Carribean are the US's "near abroad" comparable to the Soviet Union's Eastern Europe, and you factor in the various brutal civil wars in the region between the criminals in charge and the reformers, and you understand that the criminals in charge were fully supported by the US all the way to the hilt, the US and the Soviet Union come out practicly equal.

I'm not sure in what sense you think that they come out practically equal. The US supported some very bad actors in some countries during the Cold War. That includes right-wing groups in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. This is conduct that the US has apologized for, and which was undertaken in the context of a global struggle with the Soviet Union.

As far as "controlling" the near abroad goes, the US sought simply to deny additional footholds for the Soviet Union (this is not an endorsement of US policy then, but that's how they viewed it). By contrast, the Soviet Union didn't simply want to deny western influence in Eastern Europe, but rather wanted to actively and fully control Eastern Europe.

In any event, since the end of the Cold War, the US has unequivocally supported democracy and reconciliation efforts in Latin America, and certainly doesn't control any of the governments in those nations.

Form follows function guarantees that the United States will try to control the PRC, and form follows function will guarantee that the PRC will not take kindly to that.

"Control" in what sense? Can you give an example of a government today that the US controls in the sense you mean it here?

Of course, believing that the US is guaranteed to be supernaturally wise in its dealings with the PRC is, well, a sign of selective gullibility. Skeptical is not in fact Skeptical at all.

You misunderstand me. It is precisely because no nation is supernaturally wise in its dealings with another that the US requires good intelligence on the PRC. Lack of visibility increases the chances of misperceptions and miscalculations.

@Winter: The USA prevent Chinese from the PRC to spend their dollars buying useful USA property like companies or real estate. So the only option is to buy government bonds.

That's not true at all. See this report on PRC investment in the US from the Rhodium Group. Among the real-estate investments by PRC entities last year were the purchases of Chase Manhattan Plaza and the General Motors Building.

I also agree with Anura re: US debt, a view with which the bond market is also clearly in accord with.

PJMarch 26, 2014 2:45 PM

vas pup, thank you for your civil reply.

As human beings, we survive, extend our lives, and improve our lives by using our minds, by using reason. It is no more the governments responsibility to protect us from nature than it is to protect us from ourselves. Indeed, it is not in one's interest to receive the unearned. Any government action that tells us not to use our minds, that tells us we will be taken care of if we fail, is immoral. If our property is taken, by fraud or theft, we should have legal recourse. Short of that, the government should not get involved.

Regardless of the reason someone is starving or the duration of the assistance, the government's only means of helping the poor is by taking from those who are not poor. There are private charities to help the poor. Government-mandated charity is not charity; charity requires the option of not giving. Helping those who share your values is self-interested; Having your money taken and given to those who don't share your values is immoral and certainly not the governments responsibility.

The number of layers of caviar is not fixed; wealth is not a static quantity that can run out, regardless of how many people hoarde it. Wealth should be made by increasing the value of commodities, it should not be taken or mooched.

@Winter

A government may choose to violate the rights of foreign citizens outside the borders served by that government if doing so is in the best interest of the citizens the government serves. There must be consequences, however, so violating rights may not be in the best interest of its citizens.

vas pupMarch 26, 2014 2:58 PM

@Skeptical. Thank you for the very good link on Chinese investments. That is what I call civilized discussion with concentration on providing factual basis for your position.

Clive RobinsonMarch 26, 2014 7:57 PM

@ PJ

There is a significant problem with your view point, which has been known about for many thousands of years.

It boils down to "who has the right to deny others access to a resource?"

You can argue till your blue in the face about property rights but at some point you have to accept that people need assistance to live and function and develop, not just into viable human beings but those who can enable others to develop into viable human beings by what ever measure is prevelant in the society you have the mis/fortune to live in.

A simple question to illistrate the point,

Is it wrong to deny a baby water/food even though it cannot earn the money to pay for it?

And please don't fudge an answer by saying it's the responsability of the parent(s), because there are many children and babies without parents due to no fault of their own or that of their parents.

Then ask the question again about people with disabilities...

If those two questions don't make you reconsider you "absolutist principles" consider the "might is right" argument.

What right do I have to dam a stream or river?

Should I still have that right if it will make the lives of people down stream impossible to live?

Should I be able to dam a stream as an act of ethnic cleansing?

Then ask the same questions again but instead of daming use the example of poisoning the water supply...

But a question nearer to home, do you have a right to life?

How about do you have a right to breath?

Do you have a right to work?

Do I have the right to stop you having access to air?

Do I have the right to stop you having access to water?

Do I have the right to stop you having access to food?

Do I have the right to stop you having access to society?

There are a whole load of hidden rights society gives you which your view point would actually deny you, as was observed long long ago "no man is an island" and likewise there is no such thing as a "self made man". Society provides to individuals so that they can flourish, in return people have a duty to payback to society in some way to ensure that society remains viable.

You come into life helpless and you are helpless to prevent your own death in many ways, which society is not helpless to provide. For the majority of people lucky enough to survive to become viable members of society they will with luck and the alowance of society live long enough that they are nolonger productive but within the social structure still live meaningfull lives.

Otherwise you will condem them to death before their natural term, which most religions regard as a significant sin.

But it does not matter if you are sinner or saint, it's very much in your own interest to ensure the population of society around you is fit and healthy, because your health safty and wealth is very much dependent on them. If they are unwell you will become unwell, if they have no safety then you likewise will have no safety and if they have no wealth how will they pay for you to live?

After all I assume you don't want to live in a cave or hut made within the limitations of your abilities, nor do I assume you want to scratch in the earth for food or work yourself into an untimely death by not having the benifits of society such as health care, communications and a market place where you can trade your labour for others labour?

yesmeMarch 27, 2014 2:47 AM

@Clive and PJ

Yesterday I was in Germany and on the road I listened to the radio (WDR 5). A news item was about Obama in Brussles talking about the "transatlantic free trade area" between the USA and Europe.

The Germans don't really like the "no regulations" stuff. Because, they say: Look at what is happening to the book stores. They are all gone, except in Germany. In Germany the book store owner doesn't control the price of a book, it's the author / publisher who decides the price. So there are no price stunts. Competition doesn't really work on the internet. It's heading to monopolies (winner takes all) like Amazon, Google and Facebook. And with books, the lack of competition actually does makes them more expensive. So the opposite of the benefit of "no regulation", that is competition, is taking place.

I think the German system is better. You need to have regulations otherwise the sharks take over. I think we have more than enough Coca Cola's, McDonalds, Microsofts and the like. I want diversity.

WinterMarch 27, 2014 2:49 AM

@PJ
"A government may choose to violate the rights of foreign citizens outside the borders served by that government if doing so is in the best interest of the citizens the government serves. "

I fully agree with Clive's response.

I would like to add that the USA has signed the universal declaration of human rights. Human rights are rights of all humans. No government can deny humans these rights. Whether or not they are subjects of that government is irrelevant.

To me, your arguments seems to come down to "might is right" in practice.

WinterMarch 27, 2014 3:04 AM

@Skeptikal
"That's not true at all. See this report on PRC investment in the US from the Rhodium Group. Among the real-estate investments by PRC entities last year were the purchases of Chase Manhattan Plaza and the General Motors Building."

That kind of iconic buildings is not going to deplete the PRC's dollar mountains. The report you link to indeed shows an increase (doubling) in investments, but the numbers are still rather small. Much smaller than, e.g., the Dutch investments in the USA.

It is also very selective:

Obama blocks Chinese wind farm purchase
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2012/09/28/obama-blocks-chinese-wind-farm-purchase/70001354/1

U.S. Deems Chinese Canadian Energy Purchase National Security Risk
http://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/North-America/U.S.-Deems-Chinese-Canadian-Energy-Purchase-National-Security-Risk.html

@skeptikal
"I also agree with Anura re: US debt, a view with which the bond market is also clearly in accord with."

I think things will go downhill fast when the USA cannot borrow enough money anymore to roll over their debt. I expect a situation like the foreign gold reserves "stored" in New York: The owners will never get their money back.

Germany Has Recovered A Paltry 5 Tons Of Gold From The NY Fed After One Year
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-19/germany-has-recovered-paltry-5-tons-gold-ny-fed-after-one-year

(I think the gold is all gone)

Wesley ParishMarch 27, 2014 3:56 AM

@Skeptical

As far as Latin America goes, the reason for belated US apologies appears to be that Latin Americans are, well, "bolshy" now, and the US fears losing even more influence there than it feared during the "Cold War". In this case, it is not their governments, which have been shown to be quite compliant to US demands, but the average Latin American citizen, who has needed and thus used all the relevant information.

As far as China - both Chinas for that matter - and the US goes, the more information the average citizen of the PRC, Taiwan, and the US have on all aspects of those rather complicated relationships, the more chance we will have of navigating them in the future. Ditto for the other actors such as Japan, the two Koreas, Indochina, and ASEAN. I consider it a great benefit that Indonesia now can hold Australia to account, as well as Australia Indonesia.

Snowden will have proven quite useful for the average Chinese citizen, if the US changes its behaviour in response, and stops the PRC from using US bad behaviour as an excuse.

As far as the US controlling China and so on, well it's quite obvious the US considers the Pacific Ocean to be its "pond" - one little piece of evidence is a case the (renounced in 1980) US claim to the islands of Pukapuka (Danger), Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penrhyn that were part of the Cook Islands archipelago. As far as I know, the US pressed its claim to those islands in the 1930s, administered by New Zealand as part of its Cook Islands territory inherited from the previous British administration, as part of preparing to face Britain down over its failing empire. Now China considers the South China Sea area part of its "near abroad" and the US considers it part of its "pond". Don't touch that dial! The question is whether or not China's growing economic power can successfully outweigh the US's military might, considering that twice within the past thirty years the US has been shuttered for business by its own government, once by George HW Bush's administration, once by the Republican opposition in Congress.

vas pupMarch 27, 2014 10:00 AM

@Clive: "Society provides to individuals so that they can flourish, in return people have a duty to payback to society in some way to ensure that society remains viable." Absolutely! It is true for super rich and for 'free riders' on the other end of the spectrum.
@yesme. Thank you for input on books pricing in Germany. I respect them as well, and each time when listen to the statement in the ad 'power of German engineering' I am guessing when next time I'll hear the same like 'power of American engineering', not science - no argument on that, but engineering which is science & technology implemented into manufacturing of goods (not military or space items I am talking about)
W I T H I N the US borders by american work force. That is my dream! If you want to know the roots of German prosperity, do your own research
on Bismark's ideas.
@Winter. Posting on March 27, 2014 at 7:49 AM.
Agree on universality of human rights, but want to add that sometimes in the media, discussions, forums, etc. no distinction made between human rights (universal for any human being) and civil rights which are derived out of belonging to particular citizenship obtained legally through established procedure aka due process, meaning just being within borders of particular country illegally does NOT deprive you of human rights, but does NOT automatically grant you civil rights equal to the rights of the citizens of that country, because citizens have also set of duties (not only taxes) to their country as well (see Clive's posting on that). Rights (economic in nature in particular) do not exist without corresponding duties (reciprocity again). Citizenship is granted for aliens, not obtained automatically, and you can't demand citizenship. It is the favor of country you want to leave, not your right. My own opinion.

PJMarch 27, 2014 11:29 AM

Before governments started implementing welfare systems there existed private charities to help the poor and helpless. Now, with the help of technology these same private charities have an even greater ability to help. Government is the single greatest threat to the life and wellbeing of an individual. Compare the atrocities performed by tyrannical governments to those committed by individuals and corporations. Then consider the motivations that caused those governments to do evil and you will find that they thought, and in certain cases still think, they were doing good.

Societies do not give rights, Clive. We have rights with or without the sanction and protection of the government or of society. My rights are not subject to the whims of the majority of my neighbors, though my freedom is. If you wish society to help the helpless, you don't need to force them, which is all government is good at: force. Freedom requires the possibility of bigots and the heartless who do not "give back". Which of us believes in man and which believes he must be forced by government at the barrell of a gun.

Governments are necessary, however. They are there to protect our rights from foreign aggressors and from domestic criminals and to settle disputes between individuals. But they also have the potential to violate rights more than an individual or corporation. So they musst be controlled. Their citizens must be free to make reasoned decisions about their composition. Might is not right, freedom is. A rights-violating government gives up any claim to rights and can not be allowed to use its citizens as human shields.

Incidentally, I value the life of a child more than I value the cost of gas to take the child to a church or shelter, etc., or the cost of food and water to sustain it temporarily, and therefore do not sacrifice anything by doing so. Morality does not require sacrifice. Do you honestly believe, Clive, that if I choose not to take a child into my home that I will not and can not find some other individual who will?

Your emergency situations, when they exist, exist in locations with rights-violating governments and where those who commit attrocities act as government. Do individuals commit ethnic cleansing by themselves, or do they form a gang--a society--that they believe gives them the right to commit crimes?

Were I to choose to live in a cave, I would not be free from morality. Morality is a set of principles that allow an individual to survive within or outside society. I must be free from other humans to sustain my life, which involves self-reliance and mutually-beneficial trade. I must be free not to be forced into any transaction that isn't mutually-voluntary and mutually-beneficial.

Those universal rights that endow a right to commodities do not protect rights, they violate rights. If I have a right to education, etc., and the choice not to educate me is illegal, who is going to be forced to do it (whether or not they would have been willing). If I need food but can not pay for it, who must be forced to pay for it? Wouldn't it be better if one of the many willing helped, rather than a stranger who had his money stolen by the government and who has no idea who will receive the money or why? There does not exist such a dirth of charitable individuals that governments must use force for that purpose.

Nick PMarch 27, 2014 11:57 AM

@ yesme

re German system being anti-monopolistic

You're talking about two different things here: regulations; content authors having price-setting rights. I'm in favor of some regulations. The other one is a big problem and I'm actually not sure where you're getting your data on it.

You give the bookstore as an example. Bookstores are *expensive* middlemen that add unnecessary cost on top of a book. Most people want to look at books, find something they like, and buy it cheap. This is why Amazon got famous. A book at nearby Barnes and Noble might cost me $50. The same book new on Amazon might be $20-40. Used might be as little as $0.50. The middleman is getting almost nothing. Further, that it's a commodity drives the price down. The nature of their web service and logistics drive number of books way up. Recommendation system is also decent. Way better than a bookstore.

Also, while you describe 'author sets price' as German, that actually exists all around the world: copyright law. Specifically, America has one of the strongest intellectual property protection systems in the entire world. Copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents are all examples of your model where the author is in control. This has benefits up to a point. The end result, though, has been big companies in tech, medicine, educational publishing, etc. absolutely dominating their markets by controlling as much critical I.P. as possible. Such legislation creates monopolies and oligopolies by very nature which is why companies have to buy Windows/Oracle/IBM for obscene amounts of money every year instead of a cheap knockoff (commodity market).

So, the model you so desire has been in effect over here a long time. It's made the largest firms billions. A small party gets in on the game occasionally. The consumers mainly loose money on it, though. We're currently fighting to weaken it in a way that provides a more balanced benefits. Some of us also want certain regulations or legal incentives to knock out some problems (eg patent/copyright trolls). All in all, though, the scheme does the opposite of what you say in that it increases monopolization, reduces job growth, and moves money from the many to the few.

Note: And if people want bookstores enough they can just go to bookstores instead of Amazon or eBooks. If bookstores are closing, it's not a bad thing: it's the market saying they don't want them around anymore. It's economic equivalent of voting.

yesmeMarch 27, 2014 12:33 PM

@Nick P

In Germany the bookstores are *not* expensive middlemen. Well, maybe they are, but not at the expense of the buyer. And they said on the radio that Amazon is in fact more expensive, just because they have the monopoly.

But...

Copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents are way, way too different to even discuss as one entity.

AnuraMarch 27, 2014 12:33 PM

@Winter

"I think things will go downhill fast when the USA cannot borrow enough money anymore to roll over their debt."

There is no reason to believe that will happen. We had an increase in deficit during a recession; this is expected, and not indicitive of a debt problem - yes, politicians are morons and have handled the situation horribly, but that's a short term problem, and debt is something you look at over decades not months or years.

What matters is debt to GDP ratio, and in a strong economy your goal is for that to go down, not for your total debt to go down (or maintain it once it gets to an agreed-upon level) as reducing debts can hurt your economy, potentially even increasing debt to GDP ratio. Since revenue is proportional to GDP, a lower debt to GDP ratio indicates your ability to pay your national debt is greater. Since GDP grows, this is easy to reduce. As long as your deficit is less than (total debt)*(Percent Nominal GDP Growth) - which is about 4% on average since 2000 - our debt to GDP ratio will go down and our ability to pay back our debt will go up.

Our public debt at the end of 2013 was about $12,334.5 bn, and our nominal GDP was about $16,797.5 bn, for a debt to GDP ratio of 73.4% - for that number to go down, we only have to get our deficit below $493.4 bn if we expect average GDP growth. Although we still don't have to get this down today, because debt is not a one year outlook, it's a 10 year or 30 year outlook, and the trend is for the debt to GDP ratio to go down (even before all the cuts, there was absolutely no reason to believe that we were facing a crisis with our public debt).

If we were facing a crisis, then interest rates on treasury bonds would rise; instead, they have fallen to very low rates as investors look for safe places to keep their money in bad economic times because, despite the rhetoric, the bond market is not worried about the US government's ability to pay back its debt.

If politicians decide to do something stupid and default because of the debt ceiling, then yes we will have a problem, but investors in the bond market don't honestly believe that's going to happen.

Nick PMarch 27, 2014 12:51 PM

@ yesme

"Well, maybe they are, but not at the expense of the buyer."

Huh? Any extra expense is 'at the expense of the buyer' if they pay more. It's certainly possible that Amazon is expensive in *your* country due to how your country does things (eg taxes), shipping, etc. In USA, online stores are often cheaper as they bring in extra competition and don't have overhead of, say, a whole building. Real estate, building costs, insurance, permits, maintenance... these things are pricey compared to a $4.99/mo online store from GoDaddy. ;) Huge cost savings allow them to charge way less.

"Copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents are way, way too different to even discuss as one entity."

Their specifics are. Their nature isn't. You wanted to work against monopolies and gave German example of author controlling prices of books. Copyrights and patents, in particular, are American tools that let the authors do that kind of thing to a large degree. The result has been a ton of monopolies, oligopolies, etc. I was pointing out that the example you cited hurts your goal and showed evidence that this is the case in many kinds of I.P. systems.

Although, I'm for a degree of each as there's certain benefits. Particularly, a combination of strong trade secret and contract law benefits consumers as the companies can make the big money long as they keep the secret. When the secrets out, copies show up and we get stuff cheap. This incentivizes them to continually come up with new stuff and invest in *real* security. That legal setup is so good for the little guy that they gave us patents & security theater instead. :)

yesmeMarch 27, 2014 12:58 PM

@Nick P

Haven't you read what I said? The prices are fixed. The bookstore owner doesn't set the prices, it's the author / publisher.

PJMarch 27, 2014 1:22 PM

@Winter

I'll clarify. A government may use retaliatory force against a foreign government or its citizens if that foreign government initiates force. No government may initiate force against a foreign government or violate the rights of its citizens.

Nick PMarch 27, 2014 1:38 PM

@ yesme

"Haven't you read what I said? The prices are fixed. The bookstore owner doesn't set the prices, it's the author / publisher."

I did read that. It's a point where the German system differs from American. Yet, like in American system, the copyright gives a monopoly [by definition] on the copyrighted work. If it's a commodity, they can only charge what people are willing to pay, competition kicks in, and it get's cheaper over time here due to first sale doctrine. If author controls it and its price, they can charge a high price every time. So, the German extension to copyright (already monopolistic) only strengthens monopolistic practices increasing cost on consumers.

In the US, similar provisions allow copyright and patent holders to make a ton of money on their I.P. at everyone else's expense. They also use it for lock-in and preventing better products from entering market (see Apple vs Samsung). I can imagine the nightmare it would be if they could control price too. They already do with patents, for instance, with main use of extorting high licensing fees. There would be less innovation, while things would cost more even online. Heck, that price fixing rule might be part of why Amazon is so expensive in Germany.

SkepticalMarch 27, 2014 8:29 PM

@Winter: The report you link to indeed shows an increase (doubling) in investments, but the numbers are still rather small. Much smaller than, e.g., the Dutch investments in the USA.

Sure, but as the report I linked discusses, that's primarily because the PRC makes it difficult for a Chinese persons to invest abroad.

Obama blocks Chinese wind farm purchase
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/...

This represents the only deal Obama has ever blocked, I believe.

In this case, the wind farms were located in close proximity to a military weapons testing facility.

U.S. Deems Chinese Canadian Energy Purchase National Security Risk
http://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/North-America/...

The deal here actually went forward, albeit with some modifications.

I think things will go downhill fast when the USA cannot borrow enough money anymore to roll over their debt. I expect a situation like the foreign gold reserves "stored" in New York: The owners will never get their money back.

That's an extremely unlikely scenario, which is in large part why US bonds fetch a high price in the market.

SkepticalMarch 27, 2014 9:03 PM

@Wesley: As far as Latin America goes, the reason for belated US apologies appears to be that Latin Americans are, well, "bolshy" now, and the US fears losing even more influence there than it feared during the "Cold War".

You brought up Latin America as a case of how badly the US can be expected to treat China, comparing US actions in Latin America to Soviet actions in Eastern Europe.

But you say that America is even more worried about losing influence in Latin America than during the Cold War (not true), and so it has taken the even more extreme step of... apologizing for past actions (and being extremely supportive of democracy and human rights initiatives). How terrible. What evils will America visit upon them next? Economic aid? Free trade agreements?

As far as the US controlling China and so on, well it's quite obvious the US considers the Pacific Ocean to be its "pond"

Not sure what you mean by this.

I asked you last time for an example of a government in the world that the US "controls" in the manner that you believe the US would attempt to control China.

Do you have such an example in the Pacific?

- one little piece of evidence is a case the (renounced in 1980) US claim to the islands of Pukapuka (Danger), Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penrhyn that were part of the Cook Islands archipelago. As far as I know, the US pressed its claim to those islands in the 1930s, administered by New Zealand as part of its Cook Islands territory inherited from the previous British administration, as part of preparing to face Britain down over its failing empire.

Sorry, how does this renounced claim establish that the US considers the Pacific to be its pond?

Now China considers the South China Sea area part of its "near abroad" and the US considers it part of its "pond". Don't touch that dial! The question is whether or not China's growing economic power can successfully outweigh the US's military might, considering that twice within the past thirty years the US has been shuttered for business by its own government, once by George HW Bush's administration, once by the Republican opposition in Congress.

This is almost all wrong.

The PRC has numerous territorial disputes with its neighbors (Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei) in the Pacific. It has taken aggressive positions on them, to the concern of its neighbors, all of which clamor for more US involvement in the region.

At the same time, the PRC continues to massively increase its military spending, and is very opaque about the nature of its spending.

The question is whether the PRC will integrate into the global community peacefully, and act within diplomatic and legal constraints with respect to its neighbors, both in resolving these disputes and more generally.

That is why the PRC's neighbors are investing more heavily in their militaries, and are much more eager to coordinate with the United States.

The US, for its part, desires to see trade and democracy continue to expand in East Asia, regarding these things as mutually beneficial and also in the national security interests of all involved (as democratic nations tend not to go to war with one another). It poses no threat to nations in the Pacific, which is why cooperation with the US is heavily preferred to a future in which the PRC dominates the region.

There are some variables in this complicated picture that, over the course of decades, could combine to result in an event that most want to avoid: a war in East Asia. Good intelligence is absolutely vital to the successful avoidance of such an event, and would be just as vital to ensuring that, should such a war ever occur, the side that favors democracy would be victorious.

The peaceful integration of the PRC into the international community, and into a harmonious stance with its neighbors, is the most important geopolitical task of our time. It is several orders of magnitude more important than international terrorism. Only someone who completely lacks an appreciation for its importance, and for the stakes, would be foolish enough to divulge American and allied intelligence operations in that region to journalists across the world. And it takes an impressive degree of stupidity on the part of certain journalists to then publish those operations.

WinterMarch 28, 2014 3:38 AM

@Skeptikal
"That's an extremely unlikely scenario, which is in large part why US bonds fetch a high price in the market."

The same was said about all the gold that was stored in the USA. The Germans are not even allowed to get a look at the 1500 metric ton ($62B) they stored in NYC.

And that holds for (many) more countries.

But, indeed, to this day the USA government has not defaulted on their bonds. It came close a few times.

David Graeber (Debt, the first 5000 year) describes the US bond holdings of foreign governments as a tributary. I think there is more truth to this than is commonly acknowledged. It seems to be a prerequisite for being allowed to trade with the USA.

yesmeMarch 28, 2014 4:52 AM

I did read that. It's a point where the German system differs from American. Yet, like in American system, the copyright gives a monopoly [by definition] on the copyrighted work. If it's a commodity, they can only charge what people are willing to pay, competition kicks in, and it get's cheaper over time here due to first sale doctrine. If author controls it and its price, they can charge a high price every time. So, the German extension to copyright (already monopolistic) only strengthens monopolistic practices increasing cost on consumers.

We are going way offtopic here, and IANAL, but this is what I think about this.

A copyright is by definition a monopoly. Yes that's true. But it's still competition. If the newest Harry Potter is too expensive you will probably look at something else. And the woman who wrote that book doesn't get your money.
Or in the case of Bruce Schneier, there are other good security authors.
(And if you wait for a while you can probably buy a book second hand.)

But for a bookstore owner it's very hard to compete with an Amazon because they have deep pockets and could probably even give books away for quite a long time, killing the entire competition. And after that they set the price (which is higher).

In the US, similar provisions allow copyright and patent holders to make a ton of money on their I.P. at everyone else's expense. They also use it for lock-in and preventing better products from entering market (see Apple vs Samsung). I can imagine the nightmare it would be if they could control price too. They already do with patents, for instance, with main use of extorting high licensing fees. There would be less innovation, while things would cost more even online. Heck, that price fixing rule might be part of why Amazon is so expensive in Germany.

I said before that I.P. is not one single entity and therefore can't be discussed about as if it is one. We are talking about different things with different laws and history.

That's also the problem with news reporting and politicians. They oversimplify things (deliberately).

The war on drugs for instance. They make: cigarets legal, weed illegal, coffee legal, qat illegal, speed illegal, beer legal. But cigarets are the most lethal drug around (by far). Next is alcohol. Weet hasn't killed anyone nor is there any long term damage to the brain. Yet your prisons are full of poor people who are involved with weed. Stop this ridiculous narrow mindness. Now. The war on drugs is criminal.

The war on terror is also a nice one. What is the target??? It's a tactic. And are you solving that with drone strikes? Do you really believe that's a long term solution? And isn't a drone strike an act of terror by itself?

The cold war too. Fighting communists. Just put a label on the politics of a country and you can do what you want. Do you really believe that the embargo of Cuba was a humane thing to do?

Oversimplifying things is probably one of the most damaging thing of US politics after WW2 (among the financial system and the military industrial complex). It's narrow mindness and ridiculous.

But talking about software patents, these are very unfair and in almost every case in favor of the big companies. It's todays rich mens game. IMO it's plain legal extorsion.

Nick PMarch 28, 2014 9:44 AM

@ yesme

"We are going way offtopic here, and IANAL, but this is what I think about this."

I agree so I'll be brief. And I see your point about the other side of the competition.

"But talking about software patents, these are very unfair and in almost every case in favor of the big companies. It's todays rich mens game. IMO it's plain legal extorsion."

Something we definitely agree on. I give props to New Zealand for abolishing the software patents. I'm waiting to see if it turns into the software company startup of the world. Many other factors so I doubt it. Might be good for nonprofits and others trying to avoid patent suits.

Clive RobinsonMarch 28, 2014 12:15 PM

@ PJ

    Societies do not give rights, Clive. We have rights with or without the sanction and protection of the government or of society. My rights are not subject to the whims of the majority of my neighbors, though my freedom is. If you wish society to help the helpless, you don't need to force them which is all government is good at: force. Freedom requires the possibility of bigots and the heartless who do not "give back". Which of us believes in man and which believes he must be forced by government at the barrell of a gun.

I realy don't think you understand fundementaly what a right is, which makes reading what you say at best difficult due to the cognative dissonance it causes.

At a fundemental level a right is a "measure" which is used to make a judgment by which a "fair measure" or decision is arived at. It involves no "at the barrell of a gun" to make a judgment, however it usually is "seen to be right" that the person setting the measure and/or the person making the judgment of the measure be indipendant of any particular measure.

To say an individual has "rights" is fairly meaningless in issolation it is always within a context that is either expressed or implied.

The axioms of a right are "fairness of measure between parties" and the "independance of measurment from bias by the involved parties". Importantly is "parties" that is the involvment of "two or more" entities be they legal or natural without which a right has neither substance or meaning.

So you saying "Societies do not give rights" is a point of major difference, a society is a collection of people thus "two or more" people count as a society or a natural subset of a set of size two or more.

Thus you saying "We have rights with or without the sanction or protection of government or society" does not make sense in either the general or specific case. In part because it is not possible to live on this planet without falling into either a national or international juresdiction in part because it's not possible to be excluded from society or a subset of society.

As for you saying "the whims of the majority of my neighbours" I would agree that unless codified in an agreed format they don't represent a right because it does not pass the "fair measures" or "independence of judgment" axioms, so as a point it's moot when talking about rights of an insividual within one or more societies (it's because of this we have a judicial review process an entity can appeal to if subject to capricious or otherwise whims of one or more of their neighbours).

Your statment about the "all government is good at : force" is an emotive and personal viewpoint you have, which is neither accepted by all or true, as can be demonstrated by proof fairly easily if you wish to view the evidence impartialy and unemotivly.

As for your commet about freedom it also alows for the full spectrum of human behaviours not just bigots and heartless, and as another of your comments shows you would turn to the law to gain redress against those who exhibit unacceptable behaviour against you. As is often pointed out you cannot enjoy the benifits of society without also suffering what you see as the disbenifits of society. The hardest part of freedom is accepting the responabilities that go with it without pick or choice, it's the price you pay for living in a society that allows you some freedoms, especialy the freedom of choice of representatives to move society in a direction you would prefere. Also if you find your views and wishes are to radical currently for the society you live in, you do afterall have the freedom to apply to live in a different society more akin to your views and wishes if you wish, in just the same way they have the freedom to say no to you. Likewise you also in theory have the freedom to become "stateless" but even then you would still be part of a society (see UN on "stateless persons") and subject to the laws that apply in whatever juresdiction you chose to be in at any time.

SkepticalMarch 28, 2014 12:42 PM

@Winter: The same was said about all the gold that was stored in the USA. The Germans are not even allowed to get a look at the 1500 metric ton ($62B) they stored in NYC.

That rumor was the product of the usual, and quite blatant, sensationalizing of any gold-related news by "gold bugs" and that group of websites that caters to paranoid worldviews that see global conspiracies everywhere.

What actually happened is this:

In late 2012 the German Auditor Court noted that the Bundesbank relied on reports from the New York Federal Reserve as to the status of its gold, and expressed the opinion that a more thorough accounting of the gold held in custody should be undertaken.

Here's how the Financial Times dryly reported the reaction of the Bundesbank to the claims:

The Bundesbank, which rarely finds itself accused of taking its duties lightly, responded that it did not share the Audit Court’s opinion.

“There is no doubt of the integrity, reputation and security of the foreign storages’ sites,” it said in a statement, noting that it received annual confirmations of its holdings from the foreign institutions, that they were protected from any kind of legal seizure and could not become intermingled with the holdings of others.

It said: “The desired scope of inspection by the Audit Court does not correspond with the established protocol between central banks.” Additionally, the auditors had checked the Bundesbank’s annual report every year since 2002 and never yet found fault, the Bundesbank said.

No one has denied Germany the opportunity to view anything, and the audit apparently found Bundesbank's accounting satisfactory.

But in the mouths of those trying to stoke the embers of the gold market, this somewhat humorous incident (you have to imagine the indignation of a German central banker on being accused of carelessness) was turned into a new conspiracy theory about missing German gold.

Incidentally, Germany is in the process of repatriating a proportion of its gold holdings abroad. Thus far the NY Federal Reserve has delivered somewhere around 40 tons.

I believe that there are also public tours of the gold vault, for those still skeptical.

WinterMarch 28, 2014 1:25 PM

@Skeptical
There was a huge row in Germany when their representatives were not allowed to actually see the gold. The same holds for the Netherlands. All we have is paper telling us there is gold. But no one has been able to see the bars and their registration numbers.

If you had read the link I gave, you would have seen that only 5 tons from NY has reached Germany. And it was all new ingots.

vas pupMarch 28, 2014 3:20 PM

@Skeptical&Winter on German and Netherlands gold.
When thousands of Soviet tanks were in GDR, aka Eastern Germany, Europeans had reasonable concern regrading their national gold reserves considering the US as 'save heaven' for their reserves. That was reality of that period of history. Now, there is zero reason to continue keep golden reserves of European banks in the US. If any of you (respected bloggers) could provide reason, I'll be glad to see your posting.
@PJ:" Regardless of the reason someone is starving or the duration of the assistance, the government's only means of helping the poor is by taking from those who are not poor." That is paradigm when the only major source of Government revenue are taxes, and income tax in particular. There are models of doing business including enterprises of mutual private-gov ownership, gov owned manufacturing structures or casino (latter like in Canada - please grind me on that statement if I am wrong) when source of distributions is not forcefully taken from somebody as you suggested, but in the US that is considered as blasphemy of capitalism even it was working productive in Europe, South Korea, etc. But, I agree with you on charities with only one addition: institutionalized charities (non-for-profits by IRS definition) should get/maintain their non-taxable status based on ratio: amount spent directly on charity purposes to amount spent on its [bureaucracy (fat bonuses, building, luxury) + operational expanses]. My guess when this ratio is less than (at least) 10, then it is scam. It should not be reap off organization. Respectfully for your and other bloggers opinions- that is just my own.

AnuraMarch 28, 2014 4:11 PM

@PJ - "Regardless of the reason someone is starving or the duration of the assistance, the government's only means of helping the poor is by taking from those who are not poor."

Let's say for a minute that this is true. How did these people get rich or poor in the first place? Many people get rich by taking from the poor. Many people are just lucky, or unlucky. I could see that you had a point if everyone's pay was equal to the amount that they contributed to the system, but it simply isn't. So we basically have a somewhat random distribution of money, and then the moral argument that we have the right to that money. I don't really see a reason why the capitalist system of distributing money is any less arbitrary than a system that distributes money equally without obligation.

So what are morals, really? To me, morals are the things that we as a society agree on because they make society a better place to live in. That's really all there is to it. I mean, we are all going to die, so why is murder wrong? It doesn't change the end result. It's wrong because if it wasn't, then society would be a terrible place to live in. If we didn't have some property right, then we wouldn't be able to leave our homes out of fear that someone would just come in and take our stuff. Income taxes don't induce that fear; while it feels bad to pay taxes, it's a net gain because it allows the government to fund the services that we need to function as a society.

Society is a better place when you don't have high inequality. Poverty and crime go hand in hand, which also makes people more fearful of impoverished areas. If you make a million dollars a year, and your tax goes from $300,000 to $400,000, it doesn't make a significant difference to your quality of life. However, if you have 10 people who make $15,000 a year and all of a sudden they get an extra $10,000 per year, then you have significantly improved the quality of life of ten people while insignificantly reducing the quality of life of one person. Improving the quality of life of a lot of people can also improve your quality of life by reducing your risk of being the victim of a crime. For this reason, I would say that redistribution of income is the moral choice, as it makes society a much better place to live in.

SkepticalMarch 28, 2014 5:45 PM

@Winter: There was a huge row in Germany when their representatives were not allowed to actually see the gold. The same holds for the Netherlands. All we have is paper telling us there is gold. But no one has been able to see the bars and their registration numbers.

Much ado about nothing. The Bundesbank is completely satisfied as to the accounting of the gold, and the New York Federal Reserve tends to be rather careful as a custodian. Who was not permitted to view the gold?

If you had read the link I gave, you would have seen that only 5 tons from NY has reached Germany. And it was all new ingots.

It's 37 tons now. See International Business Times from a couple of days ago.

From the same article, which notes that some of the earliest shipment was melted on arrival to conform with current standards (i.e. they were not all new):

Though the scheme was first announced in January 2013, that remelting could have contributed to delays before the first shipments started in the fall of 2013, according to George Milling-Stanley, a consultant to central banks on gold buying.

Germany requested a phased delivery over seven years, with each shipment kept small and with no more than one ton in any single delivery, he told IBTimes. “Insurers will cover only deliveries by air, and will not insure shipments of more than one ton at a time,” he said, citing publicly available sources.

@vas: When thousands of Soviet tanks were in GDR, aka Eastern Germany, Europeans had reasonable concern regrading their national gold reserves considering the US as 'save heaven' for their reserves. That was reality of that period of history. Now, there is zero reason to continue keep golden reserves of European banks in the US. If any of you (respected bloggers) could provide reason, I'll be glad to see your posting.

From the article I linked to:

Complete relocation of all German gold held abroad isn’t desirable, said Asche, because international finance centers like New York and London provide the best liquidity, in case the Bundesbank decides to exchange gold for cash or other foreign currency.

Asche is Henner Asche, Bundesbank's deputy head of markets.

PJMarch 28, 2014 7:26 PM

@Clive Robinson

"A right is a principle that defines and sanctions an individual's freedom of action in a social context."

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/individual_rights.html

Morality, the principles an individual follows in order to sustain, extend, and improve his life, is necessary in isolation and within society; rights are only necessary in society. But society does not give an individual rights and take them away, it only recognizes and protects them or it violates them. Defining and sanctioning do not mean creating. Rights exist solely due to man's nature as a rational being. I don't care how many or which people your rights-creator claims to represent, he has no right to force me to act against my judgement when I am violating no one else's rights. The right to violate rights can not exist.

The only way an individual's rights can be violated is through force. In a rights-respecting society, only the government uses force, but not initiatory force. How can the government use force except through the implicit threat of violence, i.e. a gun.

My statement, "which is the only thing government is good at," is incorrect. Forcing individuals to help the poor, among other things, is something the government is good at but it is not the governments business to do so; nor should we permit it to do so. To live in society an individual gives up the freedom to use force. Governments are necessary solely for the use of retaliatory force against those who initiate force. The military retaliates against foreign aggressors, the police retaliate against domestic individuals who harm the health, life, or property of others, and the courts settle disputes among citizens. The government has no business initiating force--by confiscation or imprisonment--against those who refuse to donate to charity or to "give back" to society.

@vas pup.

You're right, there are alternatives to funding the government solely via taxes. I was referring only to governments who solely use taxes. An alternative I have heard proposed would be voluntary funding of government. I would be willing to pay for the police, the military, and the courts. I would not be willing to pay nor to thereafter receive the benefits of social security, etc.. However many things in the US would have to change before such a system could be implemented. Such a system is feasible in a capitalist society, which is the only political system compatible with freedom.

Clive RobinsonMarch 29, 2014 5:21 AM

@ PJ

You quote Ayan Rand at me... do you realy think that is wise?

Let me put it this way the link you gave shows that she clearly had a non self consistant definition of what the limited subset of rights she chose to call "individual rights" are. Thus her axiom appears to be "it means what I chose it to mean as I go along". The only value behind such an axiom is that she can claim she is right in any argument thus it does not have any value in a reasond debate.

Further you should be aware that the first sentance you quote is at variance with your own previously stated views unless you have a very strange set of definitions for "society" and "social context" [1] or perhaps you have just chosen to adopt the Aryan Rand axiom as the core of your reasoning.

Either way you have done nothing to reduce the cognative dissonance in fact the very opposit.

[1] It can be fairly trivialy shown that "society" and "social context" involve two or more parties and thus at that basic level they are interchangable.

WinterMarch 29, 2014 5:22 AM

@PJ
"Morality, the principles an individual follows in order to sustain, extend, and improve his life, is necessary in isolation and within society; rights are only necessary in society."

Human life is only possible in a society/community. Morality has no meaning outside of a community. The same holds for rights and obligations.

But I think the root of your argument is in the conviction that "property" is sacred. And hence, taxes are a cardinal sin against some deity.

An idea that seems to be specific to certain political ideologies of 20/21 century USA. You will be hard pressed to find support for this idea oitside of the USA.

SkepticalMarch 29, 2014 6:51 AM

@Winter: I checked at the Bundesbank's site, and you are correct: 37 tons total, 32 from Paris and 5 from New York.

However, Bundesbank officials also confirm that some of the 5 tons delivered from New York was pre-WW2 gold (which is why it had to be melted and recast in London).

They also confirm, without disclosing much in the way of detail, that an inspection and verification of the gold held in storage at the New York Federal Reserve was undertaken by the Bundesbank.

As to what Germans believe, I have no idea what popular polls show. I do know that the Bundesbank has found the Federal Reserve to be cooperative and helpful, and it has no issue with the process of repatriation or with the way in which its gold is being stored abroad.

Here's the latest interview on the Bundesbank site on the subject:

Interview with Carl-Ludwig Thiele

In case anyone desires an English translation, if you change the "DE" in the address to "EN" you'll see the Bundesbank's translation of the interview.

BenniMarch 29, 2014 6:57 AM

Qall: I think we should get on toppic again::

@Sceptical:
"The US, for its part, desires to see trade and democracy continue to expand in East Asia, regarding these things as mutually beneficial and also in the national security interests of all involved (as democratic nations tend not to go to war with one another). It poses no threat to nations in the Pacific, which is why cooperation with the US is heavily preferred to a future in which the PRC dominates the region."

perhaps this is, why the US have planted so many bugs in india. And perhaps this is why the the former NSA boss Minihan wrote a secret letter to nsa officials, telling them

"similarly, as the control of industrial technology was the key to military and economic power in the last 200 years, the control of the computer technology is the key to power in the 21 century. Any of our efforts must serve one goal: The information control of the world by America"

The payment version http://goo.gl/VcAegz of the spiegel article on the economic espionage of the nsa on china contains more information than the free online article. From the payment version, one can conclude that non-US companies must expect to be classified as a security threat by the NSA, when they did nothing else than reducing the marketshare of some US company. A company classified that way then has to fear that it is not only attacked by nsa, but even by the US military cybercommand, taking its right of a preventive first-attack on cyberspace.

The article begins with thefts of US intellectual property done by the chinese. Two chinese generals are cited by DER SPIEGEL: "the influence of a hacker would be greater than that of an atomic bomb in the information age." And the article says that the chinese generals assess the US to be only damageable in cyberspace. The snowden files contained details that the chinese then went on to steal blueprints for the US military fighters B2, F-35, F-22, the design for air defense missiles of american atomic submarines, as well as 33000 personal files of officers and that they hacked their way into 300.000 personal accounts on the american navy. In the Pentagon, 500 computers were infected.

But the chinese of course did not stop on the military sector. They also hacked themselves into a major US oil company, and one of the largest US software companies was attacked in 2012 in a way that the chinese could even change the sourcecode. A company that admits being attackd by china was google: http://goo.gl/5VnuuX

A major reason for the chinese attacks seem to be economical.

"We are years back in our development, a chinese general is cited. Even india is 60 years ahead of us, when it comes to technology"

But then the article in DER SPIEGEL goes over to the american activities of the nsa in China.

In Honkong, Snowden told a newspaper that the nsa would have tapped the communications of the university and students and businesses in Honkong.

This is extended by the SPIEGEL article, writing that the nsa also attacked "several chinese universities in the chinese mainland"

Attacking university professors and students is strange for a secret service, since these people are publishing anything what they do anyway. But for example, the university of Honkong is very good. There's even a fields medallist teaching there, the mathematics genius Shin Tung Yau.

Attacking universities would also fit together with the attack on the european mathematics professor Quisquater, which was done though a malware that communicated via encrypted channels over servers known to be hacked by the nsa with a specialized quantum insert method that the chinese are not capable of on foreign ground: http://goo.gl/JpmZqL

Appart from chinese universities, the nsa spied on the chinese government. They tapped 219 mobile phones and 53 other phones of chinese officials, among them Hu Jintao.

Two major chinese telecommunication providers were hacked, allowing, among other things, the tapping of the entire communications from the chinese army. Then the nsa made their a full take of all communications of the chinese ministry of trade, the communications of the chinese news agency Xinhua, the import export bank, the tourism ministry, the customs authorities and so on..

And even this may just be a part of this impressive number of bugs they planted in china: http://goo.gl/4VlLsG china is colored orange in this graphics. Three countries are red, so only from three countries does the nsa get a higher percentage of all signals produced by that country.

When reading this graphics, please note that the washington post published that from at least one country, they get 100% of all phone calls, saving them for 30 days, and trying to extend this method to other countries http://goo.gl/RT22mj (perhaps a 100% collection is the meaning of a country colored "red"in the graphics):

Also the attack on Huawei was more massive than it is reported in the free online article. Huawei was attacked not only once but first in 2006, and then in 2009 again. The nsa was supported by the white house and the us trade ministry.

(The SPIEGEL article leaves it unclear why the trade ministry of the US government, that supports the US companies with intelligence from with its advocacy centre, does support the nsa in attacks on chinese firms)

The article reads

"With the attack, the nsa just follows the top secret policy "national intelligence estimate" that was decided by the white house and all secret agencies.

It says "we act on the assumption that the leading role of international corporations and foreign single persons in the sector of component suppliers for the american information technology creates a danger of a permanent, invisible threat"

"Up to now, the network infrastructure is dominated by western industries, but the chinese companies work hard to make american firms less relevant. By this, technical standards that are now dominated by us companies would change, and china could, perhaps bit by bit control the flow of communications"

In other words, the US are just pissed of that the market share for their companies is shrinking. And from this they conclude that they have to attack these foreign companies.

To me, the idea of the US government, that a non US company dominating the router market would "create permanent, invisible threat since a foreign power would, bit by bit control the flow of communications" sounds pretty much paranoid, since one is always free to install an open source firmware on most routers.

In fact, this US government idea seems to be terribly similar to the conspiracy theory on fluoridation http://goo.gl/c4WYse . To what we are lead by paranoid ideas like this is depicted precisely in Stanley Kubrick's film Dr Strangelove: http://goo.gl/CZzrpI

One problem with this definition of an alledged "security threat" is, that it is extremely broad and imprecise. For example, with a similar construction, one can say that "the german company SAP is working hard to make american office software producers like Oracle less relevant. By this, technical standards for office software defined by Oracle, could change, and germany could, beginning bit by bit, at the end, control the way how american businesses create their bills, with SAP software instead of Oracle products".

The policy to classify companies that gain considerable marketshare compared to us competitors, as a security threat, might explain, why the nsa closely monitors the german software company SAP: http://goo.gl/3Ql4Gj (in addition to 320 other germans)

US officials insist that they would not give foreign company secrets to us competitors. Actually, stealing a foreign product would be quite stupid, since the us companies could be sued then.

Within their trade ministry, the US have founded an advocacy centre for helping us companies in foreign countries with advice that comes from US intelligence services. http://goo.gl/eGNp0L

From Huawei, the nsa stole the client list. Even to know the pricing models and the clients of a company may be usefull for an us corporation. The article of DER SPIEGEL writes that the nsa was supported in their attack on Huawei by the US trade ministry..But in the DER SPIEGEL article, there is no information on whether or how the americans give these information to their companies.

Instead, an nsa presentation http://goo.gl/mQH1K7 says that the informations from Huawei is used for "targeting other non partnerable companies".

One may note that it is terrible to think of companies being attacked and hacked just because they are "non partnerable" for then nsa.

In case of Huawei, the other non partnerable companies are possibly other internet service providers using Huawei routers. It is reasonable that the nsa breaks into the chinese internet service providers by help of an exploit they codenamed Headwater: http://goo.gl/VgF4Mv

The Headwater malware was, according to DER SPIEGEL, designed after the nsa stole Huawei's sourcecode.It can be remotely installed on Huawei routers and turn them into a surveillance plattform, copying all data to the NSA Headquaters in FortMeade.

Appart from this, the nsa operator notes that by understanding Huaweis plans and actions, the nsa will perhaps be able to finally understand china.

(DER SPIEGEL notes that the nsa spooks where somewhat dissapointed, when they merely found marketing materials, bills, and travel plans of the managemant.)

DER SPIEGEL goes on, writing that the former NSA boss Minihan wrote a secret letter to nsa officials, telling them

"similarly, as the control of industrial technology was the key to military and economic power in the last 200 years, the control of the computer technology is the key to power in the 21 century. Any of our efforts must serve one goal: The informational control of the world by America"

"In October 2012, president Barack Obama signed a top secret directive, which should transform America to a new age.

Obama authorised the US military, to prepare for a regular war against other nations on the internet. The goal of the preparations was to be able to manipulate, jam, weaken, block, or destroy computers, information systems, or networks of other countries.

Explicitely, it is stated in this directive that the United States of America insist on their right of a preventive first attack against a foreign coutry."

The article ends with the words: "Welcome at the preparations for the war tomorrow"

From this one has to conclude that tech companies now have to face it that they are getting attacked by nsa and even US military organizations, if their only wrongdoing was, to work hard enough to reduce the market share of an american company. (From the chinese, they are attacked anyway too, but more because the chinese want to develop their industries.)

This is a somewhat grim future of our new technological world.

I would recommend that readers of this article in DER SPIEGEL watch this ingenious movie from Stanley Kubrick afterwards http://goo.gl/4wh9pu , "Dr Strangelove, How I stopped worrying and startet to love the bomb" In this film, much of the paranoia and the bullheaded, power hungry behavior that nsa employees apparently have, is described.

In 1985, DER SPIEGEL published a book that now serves as one of the most detailed documentation of the german left-wing extremist terrorists RAF. It was called "DER Baader Meinhof complex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Baader_Meinhof_Complex

On 31 march, a new SPIEGEL book will appear:

It is called "The NSA complex"
http://www.randomhouse.de/Buch/Der-NSA-Komplex-Edward-Snowden-und-der-Weg-in-die-totale-UEberwachung/Marcel-Rosenbach/e460131.rhd

This is a video that documents how drone strikes are being piloted from germany:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpj051zBQeE

And here you can see the "institute of questioning" of the german secret service:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpj051zBQeE#t=35m35s

Actually, it is just one flat in the fourth floor of the building.

Here, at this institute, the source "curveball" was interviewed, lying something on iraqi "weapons of mass destruction". And here, the americans where not allowed to question curveball themselves.
Would the americans have read SPIEGEL, they would have recognized that curveball just described labs for agricultural chemistry. But they had not noted what was in there, even if SPIEGEL got the drawings. So the US went to war, because the BND told them, according to SPIEGEL, that curveball was credible.

It is interesting that the BND had an entirely different opinion than the german chancellor. BND even sent german spooks to iraq, against the order of the german chancellor not to use ground troops in iraq: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-62603846.html The spooks were cruising around during the bombardment, tagging buildings with gps coordinates, feeding all that to the nsa with an encrypted satellite connection. the BND can therefore, in some sense, be seen as a rogue agency.

The german BND would, therefore constitute an interesting NSA surveillance target. It used a proven liar to manipulate the US into a billion dollar war against the order of a german chancellor.

But appart from that, if you see how large the building of this institute for questioning is:

Well, that is the size that we want the NSA to shrink to. That the BND is that small, this is one achivement of SPIEGEL, which sooner or later publishes most things the BND does.

Will be interesting to see how small the nsa will get after this new book comes out.

WinterMarch 29, 2014 8:29 AM

@Skeptikal
We will see whether the gold will get back to Germany.

The whole episode reminds me of the gold reserves in "Making money" by Terry Prattchett.

yesmeMarch 29, 2014 10:42 AM

@Bennie

Do you really believe that the US went to war with Iraq just because of ONE source? They WANTED the war. For whatever reason (probably Bush was just tired about all the opposition of Saddam Hussein and he knew that the time was now). The Iraq war smelled from the start. It just didn't feel right. And our former prime minister Dries van Agt was also a fierce opponent of the war.

Quote from the Iraq war wiki: "The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's 12 February 2003 report."

It is a real shame that my country, the Netherlands, was an ally.

Btw, an interesting movie about the war is "Green Zone".

SlowhandMarch 30, 2014 5:20 AM

Some comments above seem to indicate that US incarceration rate being bigger than that of China means that human rights in China at least is not much worse than those in USA. This may not be exactly what the author intended but I still wish to address this suggestion.

While the incarceration rate of USA is indeed alarming, I think focusing only on this number is misleading. In fact, I think the human rights issues of China totally dwarfs those of USA. And from what I have seen, the human rights issue in China does not seem to be improving like many seem to think. Also, as was pointed out by someone else, China has labor camps which do not enter into these statistics. As far as I know, the number of people in labor camps in China is a state secret, so it is still hard to compare numbers.

There are many groups being persecuted in China, but I will focus on Falun Gong practitioners. I think that the Falun Gong persecution is, when seen in the context of the sheer scale and the severity, the most underreported abuse in the world today. Mainstream media hardly covers it at all, and it seems the majority of people outside Asia do not even know what Falun Gong is.

It is hard to find numbers for how many people in China practice Falun Gong today, but an estimate by the CCP before year 2000 was 70 million people. There may be fewer now after more than a decade of persecution, both because of direct killing and because people were scared into leaving the practice. Anyway, this is about 5 percent of the population. American incarceration rate is about 0.7 percent. Now, not all Falun Gong practitioners are in prison or labor camps, but they are all being persecuted to some degree. And they seem to all be in at least some danger of being victims of forced organ harvesting or otherwise brutally abused.

About forced organ harvesting, let me put that in some graphic detail. Some patient (a westerner or a chinese) orders an organ from a chinese clinic. Someone will then seek out a Falun Gong practitioner with matching bloodtype and whatever is needed. They will then cut the ordered organ out of his body, often while he is still alive and often not sedated. Then they will kill him and cremate him (to remove all evidence). And these are state controlled operations, and they have been happening on an increasingly bigger scale.

Here is a video which gives some background.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvAOOwvJMZs
... the video is made by New Tang Dynasty, which may be a bit partial, but my understanding is they have a good network of reporters inside of China, and they seem to have a high press-ethical standard. If you are still not convinced, the movie also refers to many other sources you can investigate, like David Matas and David Kilgour. Amnesty International has also repeatedly reported on human rights abuses toward Falun Gong practitioners and other groups, so the question really is just how far the CCP has been willing to go, not whether abuses have taken place.

Here is an EU resolution on organ harvesting in China, which I feel adds some weight to some of the claims from the video.
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=P7-RC-2013-0562&language=EN


Maybe the strangest thing about this is, the Falun Gong group is not a danger to China. Falun Gong practitioners are explicitly asked to follow the laws of the country one happens to be in and not to entangle themselves into politics. It is a spiritual movement with strict rules to improve oneself, so-called self cultivation. One popular theory is that the CCP looked at the number of practitioners and decided this in itself made them a threat.

There are of course numerous other violations performed by the CCP. But their tight grip on the media and other aspects of chinese life makes it very hard to expose them, and this makes it far easier for the CCP to get away with huge violations of human rights. USA may be slowly deteriorating into a similar society, but they are not there yet.

Sancho_PMarch 30, 2014 10:17 AM

@Slowhand:

I don’t know much about Falun Gong, but clearly it is subversion in the eyes of modern national-capitalism.
The principles of Falun Gong are accepted as a lip service only, as they are diametral to their own paradigm (business, growth, “let the money work”, “be the first”, nationality, exceptionality, victory).

Such a belief / religion / whatever is a national threat in the final race on our planet.
Modern governments have to fight such groups by all means, wherever they can.
Yes, China may be more “modern” in this respect.

BenniMarch 30, 2014 1:05 PM

Regarding Falun Gong:

There was a german court ruling that Falun Gong must tolerate it to be called a psycho sect.

Here is a detailed article in german on Falun Gong:
http://www.zeit.de/1999/31/199931.falun_gong_.xml/seite-2

It is a quite amusing read that "master Li" apparently has the ability to "heal" illnesses like tuberkulosis, stroke, brain tumor, high blood pressure, and others without prescribing any pills (but donations are welcome of course).

Well, the americans even allow practitioners of scientology to become clerks. In germany, we have a law prohibiting such radicals from getting in government positions.


But that should, in no way, say that the draconic punishment methods of the chinese police and courts are OK. China is the government that executes the highest number of people in the world. The number of persons it executes is kept secret, as well as the number of persons in education camps.

China is a dictatorship. So it has problems with the rule of law.

To learn the chinese the rule of law, the german ministry of justice got them into dialogue about such questions. This was initiated by Schroeder

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsch-Chinesischer_Rechtsstaatsdialog

After chancellor Merkel had the Dalai Lama on her questlist, china cancelled that dialogue.

But there is this GIZ centre, which has projects to teach german law to the chinese:
http://www.giz.de/de/weltweit/15590.html

Turned out that the chinese are much slower in copying laws than copying tech.

They unfortunately copied only 30 laws from the germans so far....


BenniMarch 30, 2014 1:16 PM

Here is an english site on this project:

http://www.law-reform.cn/

Even if they have copied only 30 laws so far, they seem wanting to learn more, so there is much activity on this...

I certainly think, that a government which takes part on such things can not be simply described as a "bad actor".

WinterMarch 30, 2014 4:00 PM

IIRC Falun Gong had a few converts in the highest ranks of the CCP. When these started mission work inside the central committee, they were branded a threat to the party.

What followed was an utterly demonical witch hunt against the sect. As the party will do against any credible threat.

SlowhandMarch 31, 2014 3:30 PM

@Benni

I am not sure how far we should go with this, it is getting awfully far off topic. But that Falun Gong article you linked to, it is hard to take it seriously. I must admit my german is not up to par, so I had to use Google Translate for most of it, but it seems filled with loaded terms (like "homemade pseudoreligious doctrine" or in german "hausgemachte pseudoreligiöse Lehre"), half truths (or worse) and obvious attempts at ridicule. For those who are serious about getting information about this group, the Wikipedia article is far better.

vas pupMarch 31, 2014 3:58 PM

@Skeptical:"Complete relocation of all German gold held abroad isn’t desirable, said Asche, because international finance centers like New York and London provide the best liquidity, in case the Bundesbank decides to exchange gold for cash or other foreign currency." Got it! Thank you Skeptical, you've provided absolutely different angle of view, meaning I was considering only pure security angle, but you provided economical reason. That is why we all should listen to each other (not only to own thoughts and words)and utilize opportunity to develop multidimensional image of any problem but still having in the focus security side as the primary task of that forum.

commenterApril 1, 2014 8:04 PM

OMG, there is gambling going on in here!

BTW, isn't all "American" stuff maufactured in... China? Like those Dell computers Snowden worked with in Japan?

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