China spy scare: hypocrisy is spelled Echelon

China has been receiving flak ever since Google confessed evil doers had cracked and compromised its systems, reading emails of Chinese dissidents. A steady stream of news has been gushing forth ever since, quoting diverse security experts and creating a sense of fear in regards to the yellow danger which is upon  us, threatening our technological edge and the wealth it has bestowed upon us. Google even took up negotiations with the NSA, so None Such Agency may help  ward off Dr. Fu-Manchu’s sinister attacks on freedom and democracy.

However, the entire discussion is utterly hypocritical. Western allies have been spying on each other for decades, trying to oust each others rivalling industrial complexes and corporations from bids and steal patented technologies. 

Back in 1993 and 1994, the German press had a field day after sources revealed French intelligence agency DGSE had intercepted a fax German conglomerate Siemens had sent to the South Korean government, containing an offer for a high-speed train system based on the German ICE. Apparently, the bid was shown to  French train-maker GEC Alstom, whose Train de Grand Vitesse (TGV) was competing with Siemens. Despite widespread media coverage, both Siemens and the German  government refrained from officially telling off France and resorted to making use of the silent channels of diplomacy.

Lack of evidence apparently was the main reason why senior management hushed the whole matter up. As a matter of fact, Siemens’ CEO Heinrich von Pierer was rather upset when group executive manager Wolfram Martinsen lashed out accusations in an official protest note to the Korean government. Martinsen’s memo was regarded as counterproductive as there was no sufficient evidence. Talks between GEC Alstom,

Siemens and the German Department of Transport were abandoned by the French. Nonetheless, the case is nearly always mentioned in hand-outs German students receive in internet security courses.

A couple of years later, English journalist Duncan Campbell reported to the European Parliament on the matter of Echelon, a vast eavesdropping network maintained by the NSA and the UK’s very own GCHQ. Gathering economic intelligence became a main, yet unofficial directive in the early 1990ies, for members of the so-called UKUSA alliance. Echelon became a matter of parliamentary debate on the European level, especially after the Green faction decided there was enough evidence to support an official inquiry and added pressure.

Campbell wrote an article on Echelon back in 1998 for the New Statesman. As a delegate for the EU, Campbell penned a report entitled “Development Of Surveillance Technology And Risk Of Abuse Of Economic Information (An appraisal of technologies for political control)” for the EU Directorate General for Research.

The report cited an article from The Baltimore Sun, which stated the NSA had eavesdropped on satellite communications between Airbus and Saudi government officials concerning a deal with Saudi Airlines. Apparently Airbus officials wanted to bribe Saudi delegates – Boeing and McDonnell Douglas went on to win the $6 billion bid.

In March 2000, R. James Woolsey, a former Director of Central Intelligence, rebutted Europe’s fears and public outcry concerning Echelon in an article for the Wall Street Journal. Woolsey stated in his commentary, aptly titled “Why we spy on our allies” that the US of A need  not spy on European high-tech as US companies had the leading edge anyway. Instead the NSA spied on it’s allies because European companies had to resort to tax-deductible bribery in order to win large contracts.

Mr Woolsey apparently forgot the Enercon case German newspaper Die Zeit reported on back in 1999. Enercon, a major German producer of wind turbines, received a written injunction in 1995 from a district court in San José and from the US Department of Commerce,  claiming Enercon had infringed patents of Kenetech Windpower Inc.

Enercon’s CEO Aloys Wobben had to appear in Washington and was questioned for two weeks. 
Wobbens’s lawyers were able to view Kenetech Windpower’s evidence – which included a detailed report on how Kenetech employees allegedly climbed up an Enercon E-40 turbine in 1994 and documented its inner workings over the course of an hour.

Apparently, the trio was able to access the turbine itself by disabling the security system. A journalist went on to tell Mr Wobben the NSA had previously intercepted security codes from Enercon and handed them over to Kenetech Windpower. Kenetech then sent it’s engineers out to spy and patent a competitor’s technology.

To cut a long story short – competitive intelligence is commonplace and has a long and very dirty history. All Western allies have been spying on one another for decades, even for centuries. France has been spying on Germany which has been spying around in the Balkan which was spied upon by the USA. Russia and China have been spying on the West since the 1990s, in an effort to modernise their defunct industries. Get a life, move on, it is all old news.

Why then, may one beg, is there such an outrage about China?

The answer is simple: so “we” can openly shame China and influence public opinion on the newest member The Great Game’s current edition. So the people in the West can feel ideologically superior to China. So McAfee, Booz Allen Hamilton and the likes can sell more and more services. To pit “us” against “them”. There are a ton of reasons, yet none of them are actually worth the public outrage.

Just remember to fear US ambitions in terms of laying hands on banking data of EU citizens and companies as much as you now fear the Chinese intern.