Ludwig von Gress
I thought I won’t have to comment on a teensy storm in a maotai cup, but it seems that the security “experts” are unable or unwilling to see an obvious and unpleasant alternative to the accepted narrative of the incident of the Defence Minister’s telephone. Everybody with even modicum of knowledge of electronic espionage would realise that the Chinese secret service, especially on their home ground, would not need the Aussies’ mobiles and laptops; and that fact in itself ought to raise some suspicions.
Perhaps the best, and the laziest way to recapitulate the incident for those not familiar with it, is to utilise somebody else’s writing and add comments. I picked up an article in the Socialist (ops, Sydney) Morning Herald, a Fairfax daily renown for its kow-towing to China and all things communist.
On 6th June, 2012 they [wrote]: “The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, took extraordinary precautions against Chinese espionage before arriving in Beijing yesterday, revealing the degree of distrust lingering beneath the surface of his goodwill visit.
Mr Smith is seeking to allay the concerns of Australia’s dominant trading partner about deepening defence ties with the United States, which Chinese leaders describe as an outdated ”Cold War alliance”.”
The word should be “domineering”, not “dominant”. I feel that Communists Chinese do not have to worry too much about socialist Obama’s America and socialist Gillard’s Australia attacking their homeland.
“The People’s Liberation Army, meanwhile, is endeavouring to show transparency by taking the rare step of flying Mr Smith in a military plane to the headquarters of the PLA Navy’s South China Fleet, which has responsibility for security in the contested South China Sea.”
I didn’t know that Brezhnev was showing transparency in August 1968 by flying Dubcek and the rest of the Czechoslovak slightly disobedient politburo to Moscow in a military plane. And the only country which militantly contests South China Sea is Communist China. Pax sinica?
“The Herald has learnt Mr Smith and his entourage left mobile phones and laptops in Hong Kong before proceeding to mainland China, after such devices were reportedly compromised during previous ministerial visits. His staff, including media advisers, were given fresh phones, with different numbers, for the duration.”
That must have stymied Chinese for at least 30 seconds. Communist China, of course, has no operatives in Hong Kong and the new phones were made on Mars.
”We all know China, that’s standard advice. We know ministers are targets,” said a source who has arranged similar visits previously. ”They have the capability and intent,” he said, referring to the long and growing list of allegations about Chinese electronic espionage.
The source said all electronic communication involving China could be potentially intercepted and it would be ”naive” to think that leaving devices outside the country would cure the problem.”
I think that the word should be “of interest to”, not “involving”.
“Australia-China defence ties have significantly improved since the 2009 defence white paper was seen by Beijing as encouraging a regional arms build-up.”
In fact, the Defence White Paper was sent to Communist China for approval before the public release to the Australian citizens.
“Lingering mistrust surfaced at the weekend when a new book claimed the white paper contained a secret unpublished section that canvassed alarming war scenarios with China, including an Australian resource blockade and Chinese missile attacks. Mr Smith dismissed the claims but Chinese security analysts are keen to hear a more detailed explanation.”
And by way of atonement, upon his return, comrade Smith further emasculated the defense budget.
“Zhu Feng, a respected professor of international relations at Peking University, dismissed the idea that China could project force to the Australian coast and suggested Australian defence officials suffered from paranoia, perhaps induced by playing too many electronic games.”
I don’t think the Polish leaders in 1938 played electronic games, yet peace seeking Hitler also accused them of paranoia.
So much for SMH; the other coverage was more or less similar and predictable. Some were commenting on how clever Aussies were; others were saying how insulting to suspect Communists of anything so underhanded. Such skulduggery from our almost largest trading partner? From Mao’s successors ? Marx forbid!
I do not know if Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is still interested in protecting Australian interests; or whether a half of personnel is awaiting pension and the other a promotion from the new Chinese controllers. Perhaps, perhaps some were still interested which, if any, member or members of Smith’s delegation had more than cordial relationship with Chinese Communist Party. One of the ways to check would be to “bug” the suspects’ mobiles and laptops.
Then, a hypothesis only, of course – some, let’s say, less patriotic members of ASIO or the Defence Department suggested the Hong Kong phone swap. No problem for China (it would be ”naive” to think that leaving devices outside the country would cure the problem), but a real problem for the Real Australian SIO.
In intelligence and counter-intelligence worlds, things often are not what they appear to be. Perhaps the whole thing was a great victory for freedom and democracy. But I cannot see how.