Our friends, the Chinese
I'm not in favor of making an enemy of China. We don't need to do that to manage what has become a very competitive relationship - especially in the Far East where we are facing off against their ally in North Korea and competing for influence with the emerging economies of Asia.
But the news that Chinese hackers have compromised some of our most advanced weapons systems should open the eyes of some very influential people in Washington who think that just because the Chinese hold a lot of our debt, we can't rock the boat.
Designs for many of the nation's most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry.
Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.
The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs. But senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against U.S. defense contractors and government agencies.
The significance and extent of the targets help explain why the Obama administration has escalated its warnings to the Chinese government to stop what Washington sees as rampant cybertheft.
In January, the advisory panel warned in the public version of its report that the Pentagon is unprepared to counter a full-scale cyber-conflict. The list of compromised weapons designs is contained in a confidential version, and it was provided to The Washington Post.
Some of the weapons form the backbone of the Pentagon's regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy's Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.
Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.
I'm no expert but it appears to me that the Chinese are particularly interested in many of the military assets we would deploy in defense of Taiwan - if we chose to defend them from a Chinese attack in the first place. Intimate knowledge of the designs of those weapons platforms would give the Red Army a decided advantage in any conflict.
There is no doubt that Chinese cybertheft has been on the increase despite our warnings. Perhaps it's time to hit back, a la the Stuxnet virus or some other cyber weapon that might deter future cyber attacks.
As it stands now, we are virtually at the hackers' mercy.