America’s tenuous, troubling relationship with China is also revealed in the documents. In late December 2009, Internet powerhouse Google was the target of a massive and sophisticated cyber-attack. Google said that the purpose of the attack was to gather information about Chinese dissidents and their supporters. Neither Google nor the United States government was inclined to identify the source of the attack. The identity of the perpetrator seemed rather obvious, for who else but the Chinese government would be motivated to take the time to develop malware that went after such a narrow, particular target? Independent web security firms like VeriSign’s iDefense definitively concluded that China was to blame, but the administration dithered and the press largely ignored the story. We now know that the Obama administration was fully aware that China went after Google and that the administration deliberately chose to ignore the attack, presumably out of fear of offending our huge trading partner.
It also appears, according to some Internet experts, that the United States narrowly averted disaster this summer when a targeted, Stuxnet-like virus originating in China was caught and disabled before it could do damage to our nation’s industrial infrastructure. This was yet another story that quietly disappeared within the haze of diplomacy, even though the consequences of the virus’s success would have been truly catastrophic.
WikiLeaks thus remains a most dangerous enemy. Julian Assange’s determination to publish every bit of classified information he can lay his hands on endangers both the West’s ability to combat terror and America’s efforts to use the subtleties of diplomacy to coax erstwhile enemies into action. Which agenda is more important is a matter of opinion. But, there can be little doubt that WikiLeaks, if left unchecked, will continue to upset the global order in a world dominated by a single superpower. How America deals with WikiLeaks, or doesn’t deal with it, may well define the Obama administration’s legacy when it comes to the continuing war on terror.
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