SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE FOOT WITH BOTH BARRELS: A PLEA FOR SMARTER COUNTERINTELLIGENCE POLICY
The Bush administration is rightly concerned with escalating levels of Chinese espionage
against the United States, both military and economic. Particularly troublesome to U.S. officials is the focus of China's foreign intelligence service on recruiting overseas Chinese who hold American or third party national citizenship. The Chinese are quite aggressive
and are already matching the efforts of the old Soviet and East bloc agencies at their peak.
That being said, espionage is a fact of life in international affairs and China's effort to "swarm" the United States with HUMINT agents is a partial redress for American superiority in SIGINT and IMINT over China. The best answer to China's efforts is the develppment of a robust, Sinocentric, counterintelligence capability in the American IC. Instead, quite counterproductively, there is a proposal to deal with this problem via a lazy, crude and immeasurably stupid policy of punishing all would-be scientists of Chinese ethnic origin
by discouraging their immigration to the United States.
As any competent economist could explain, this proposal, if enacted, will cause 100 times the damage to the U.S. economy and scientific edge that the spies are doing without providing any corresponding national security benefit whatsoever - as China will simply pick up the same information secondhand in Canada, the UK, Australia, Israel, the EU and Japan. Yes, we will cause China's spooks some inconvenience and expense but the cost to America will be patents not filed, hard science PhDs not graduated, inventions not created and a reverse brain drain
- the first in U.S. history- as the best scientists, including native born American ones, go abroad to do first-rate research.
Ironically, if this policy had been in place during WWII it would likely have been Germany that built the atomic bomb and not the United States, as so many critical physicists in the Manhattan Project were technically " enemy nationals".
Blanket policies are no substitute for cultivating a a cadre of CI officers with the requisite language skills to do the interviews and investigations of suspected spies.
Getting " deep" language skills is a long term investment in personnel that the Pentagon and the IC would rather not spend any money on as they have " higher" bureaucratic priorities. So this proposal seeks to fool the Congress and public into believing the espionage problem is being addressed- we won't increase our competency, we'll just decrease the number of people who might be spies ! That'll work ! As if real spies won't have the patience to jump through the additional bureaucratic hoops to get a visa. Or the Chinese won't simply start recruiting white guys.
If there was ever the CI equivalent of the "Strategic Hamlet Policy" from the Vietnam War, this one is it.UPDATE:Dave
at The Glittering Eye
has thoughts on China's Titan Rain PLA cyberespionage program.
More on Titan Rain - here