The Big Media’s habit of burying the most important news – or its most uproarious gaffes – just keeps growing and growing. Yesterday, I posed on the Financial Times‘ hilariously sympathetic portrait of American tech executives – who clearly conned two reporters into thinking they often served as diplomatic intermediaries between Washington and Beijing, and selflessly kept U.S.-China relations on a safe course that was continually threatened by reckless politicians. Completely ignored by the paper was the companies’ overriding self-interest in preserving China profits that too often have been made at the American domestic economy’s expense – and the resulting, often furious, lobbying, that has dominated their China policy role.
Today’s example is much more serious: A New York Times account of American struggles to combat cyber-hacking by China and other rivals that glossed over the latest official U.S. acknowledgement that America lacks the technological superiority required to retaliate against cyber-aggression without fear of a devastating response.
At least give Times reporter David Sanger credit for mentioning at all a statement by U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper that the United States lacks “both the substance and the mindset of deterrence” in the cyber-war realm. This confession went unreported outside specialty publications and website, if a Google search for the quote is accurate.
Admittedly, Clapper’s statement is somewhat ambiguous. A deficiency in the “substance” of deterrence could mean that technology capable of striking back at hackers and their sponsors with impunity simply isn’t available at all, or to U.S. policymakers. But Clapper’s reference to the “mindset” could also mean that this knowhow is available but hasn’t been deployed by the appropriate government agencies, or that it’s close enough to being developed but that a lack of political will keeps slowing progress.
In any event, Clapper’s sobering description of the global cyber-war situation sounds ominously close to that offered in January by retiring U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey – which you RealityChek readers learned about first! And as long as cyber attacks remain a threat to America’s national and economic security, that means that the U.S. government, corporate America, and vital infrastructure systems all remain dangerously vulnerable.