Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chinese intelligence was translating for the NSA

The Washington Times reported on December 21 that several years ago, Chinese intelligence successfully subverted the National Security Agency in Hawaii. First, by creating a company based in Hawaii to do Chinese translations which successfully obtained government contracts with the NSA to translate intercepted Chinese communications. The intercepted communications included sufficient information to identify the sources, giving the Chinese the ability to control what information was obtained by the NSA either by preventing significant information from being carried over by the compromised channel or by introducing disinformation.

This shows one of the problems that faces a world superpower whose own language is commonly used and which does little or nothing to encourage its citizens to learn other languages. Understanding communications in other languages require the assistance of translators who may be working for the enemy, and the enemy can almost get away with speaking freely anywhere while being overheard, since the likelihood of comprehension is so small. The more communications you need translated, the more translators you need, and the greater the likelihood of compromise.

UPDATE (January 2, 2008): Noah Schachtman at Wired and Jeffrey Carr at IntelFusion cast some doubt on this story.


Tal Poleaf said...

This is a very intersting story. Just curious, though: How much do you trust the Washington Times? I thought it was a known propaganda front for the NeoCon establishment? The paper is owned by Reverend Sun Myung-Moon or whatever, who is a very good friend of George Bush's. In fact it's been reported that Bush purchased 500 acres of land adjacent to a very large swath of land owned by Moon in Paraguay in anticipation of possibly having to leave the country in case of criminal charges. (Have you heard of this?)

Jim Lippard said...

I agree that one should be cautious about the Washington Times due to its bias and Moon's ownership, but that should go without saying. This particular story has been reported elsewhere as well, such as UPI--but that's also owned by Rev. Moon. I guess it all rests on the credibility of Bill Gertz, as this Wired piece says.

Moon has a huge amount of political influence--he got himself coronated in a ceremony at an event at the U.S. Capitol attended by multiple Congressmen, for example.

Ed Brayton has a very nice multi-part expose about Moon called Bad Moon Rising (now complete at 8 parts) at the Michigan Messenger.

Jim Lippard said...

Here's a good article about Bill Gertz and this story.

Tal Poleaf said...

Hey thanks for the info! By the way, here is where I read about George W. Bush buying land next to Moon's land in Paraguay: Wonkette.