A huge slogan board stands in front of the U.S. Capitol building during a protest against government surveillance in Washington D.C., the United Sates, October 26, 2013. Hundreds gathered here on Oct. 26 demanding the U.S. Congress to investigate the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance programs, ban blanket surveillance of telephone and Internet activity, and pursue accountability for any officials who misled lawmakers and the American people (XINHUA)
The latest probe into the 2022 cyberattack on China's Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) has unequivocally pinpointed personnel from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) as the obvious culprit.
The finding came as no surprise to many, given Washington's notoriety for unscrupulous cyber spying worldwide. Despite its own lamentable track record of spying, Washington is bent on casting a smear on China in the realm of cyberattacks. FBI chief Chris Wray on September 18 asserted, "China already has a bigger hacking program than every other major nation combined."
Such a statement, however, does not hold water but exposes Washington's habitual ploy to twist the truth. From PRISM to Equation Group and ECHELON, to round-the-clock 24/7 surveillance of cellphones and computers globally, America sticks out as a veritable super hacker state with dogged hegemonic mentality.
"Historically, the lead nation in terms of investment and global sources and methods has been the United States," Anthony Wells, the only living person to have worked for British Intelligence as a British citizen and U.S. Intelligence as an American citizen, wrote in his remarkable book "Between Five Eyes: 50 Years of Intelligence Sharing."
In 2022, the Chinese university fell victim to a cyberattack, which involved 41 specialized cyber weapons that have been used to launch cyber theft operations over 1,000 times against the university to steal its core technical data.
The incident is just the tip of the iceberg that China has suffered as a major target of U.S. cyberattacks. In 2020 alone, as revealed in a report by the National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center of China, the United States was responsible for 53.1 percent of the 42 million foreign malware attacks detected in China.
Apart from cyberattacks, Washington has also long been leveraging its cyber capabilities for mass surveillance, which dates back to wartime monitoring and censorship of international communications from and to the United States, or those passing through its territory.
Washington's global spying has been well documented, targeting not only designated rivals or foes, but its allies.
In April, a new saga of leaked U.S. intelligence documents related to Israel, Ukraine and South Korea, and even regarding the wiretapping or interceptions involving UN officials' discussions on matters like the Black Sea food transport agreement, among others, surfaced on platforms like X and Telegram.
One of the leaked documents is a memo regarding discussions among South Korean officials on the supply of weapons to Ukraine under U.S. pressure. This has led to some South Korean lawmakers raising concerns that such actions may infringe upon the country's sovereignty.
They are calling for a transparent investigation to establish the facts and a commitment from the United States to prevent such incidents from happening again.
For Seoul, being spied by the United States has been the norm. One decade ago, the South Korean embassy in the United States, along with EU missions and 37 other diplomatic missions, was reportedly targeted by the NSA, prompting the South Korean government to seek verification through diplomatic channels.
On the face of it, following the 2013 Prism Program revelation, U.S. espionage activities have come to light not only in South Korea but the whole world.
According to data from a report published in 2014 by German news magazine Der Spiegel, the NSA snooped on as many as 122 foreign leaders in 2009 and listed them alphabetically by their first names, causing a frenzy of shock and fury worldwide.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald also exposed in his book "No Place to Hide" that a single unit of the NSA had collected more than 97 billion emails and 124 billion phone calls from around the world in just 30 days in 2013, with 500 million pieces of data from Germany, 2.3 billion from Brazil, and 13.5 billion from India.
"Any refuge against surveillance, any zone of effective privacy, had to be neutralized," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman wrote in his book "Black Mirror," which is the author's account of his interactions with Edward Snowden.
Gellman's book presents a chilling portrayal of the 21st-century U.S.-dominated surveillance operation.
Global security in peril
Over the years, U.S. cyber spying has repeatedly been brought to light, sparking grave international concern.
Cyberattacks, along with economic sanctions, terrorist activities, as well as psychological warfare and military actions, are among the U.S. tactical ploys for interfering with other countries and achieving its own political goals, Iranian political analyst Raza Qale'noei has noted in an op-ed.
In 2014, in the face of pressure from allies, then U.S. President Barack Obama promised that Washington would not track the communications of "heads of state and government of our close friends and allies ... unless there is a compelling national security purpose."
However, as noted by an article released by The Washington Post, the latter part of the statement, which includes the phrase "unless necessary," has provided U.S. intelligence agencies "plenty of wiggle room."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been held in Belmarsh prison in London for years as he strives to foil the U.S. attempt to extradite him to face charges -- including under the Espionage Act, has said: "do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honor or respect. There is only one rule: there are no rules."
The insatiable appetite for global dominance is the reason why Washington has been engaging in surveillance of other countries, Evans Daka, a political scientist and lecturer with the Department of Government and Management Studies at the University of Zambia, has said.
Lu Chuanying, secretary general of the Cyberspace International Governance Research Center and Deputy Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Innovation Studies, shared a similar view with Xinhua, noting extensive surveillance can enhance the U.S. strategic advantage in decision-making, enabling interference in other countries, and even exerting control over these nations in certain situations.
In May 2010, according to reports from the New York Times, when the UN Security Council was considering whether or not to give sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations asked the NSA for help "so that she could develop a strategy."
Furthermore, Washington's surveillance is also being used for economic gains. Duncan Campbell, a renowned British intelligence expert and journalist, disclosed in his report that during the 1990s, U.S. surveillance networks were allegedly used to secure economic advantages for American companies.
According to Campbell, in 1994, the NSA shared relevant information with an American competitor of the European consortium Airbus, helping it secure a $6-billion contract with Saudi Arabia instead of Airbus.
Another case raised by Campbell suggests that U.S. company Raytheon used NSA intelligence to win a 1.4-billion-dollar contract for radar systems supply to Brazil, defeating France's Thomson-CSF.
Meanwhile, the United States has been working to militarize cyberspace, develop offensive cyber capabilities, and create systematic cyberattack platforms.
In 2017, cyberspace was officially listed alongside the sea, land, air, and space as the "fifth domain" of the U.S. military.
Militarization of the kind will exacerbate the risk of direct military conflict and can lead to unpredictable consequences, Andrey Krutskikh, former director of the Department of International Information Security at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has noted.