NSA expert talks China-U.S. relations
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 04:05
nal Security Agency expert Matthew Aid said Chinese intelligence agents try to hack his computer every day. Aid, a former spy, said his previous jobs may have landed him on China’s watch list.
“For some reason, the Chinese intelligence community thinks my computer is an absolute must have, gotta-have for Christmas,” Aid said. “I have been hit 168 times since the beginning of the year by [digital probes] from China. Last time I checked I am only a writer. It’s been 30 years since I’ve been a spy.”
As a spy, Aid listened to Soviet conversations during the Cold War and translated them for American officials. Recently, he published declassified documents on the Internet, some of which included information about China during the Cold War.
Aid delivered the final speech of the Center for Political Communication’s Global Agenda lecture series, titled “Spies, Lies and Sneaky Guys: Espionage and Intelligence in the Digital Age” on Wednesday in Mitchell Hall.
He spoke about the future of American intelligence efforts and weaknesses in current strategies.
The U.S. employs 110,000 men and women in its intelligence community and has spent more than $700 billion on intelligence efforts in the last 10 years. While Aid said China is not a significant military threat to the U.S., he believes the country is still a financial competitor and essential to the American economy.
Senior Eric Wall, who is a political science major, said he enjoyed Aid’s speech, and was most interested in his opinions about China.
“It was interesting to see these two rival powers and their different capabilities,” Wall said. “Apparently the United States has far and above capabilities, but China has this small and efficient hacking system, which is low-budget but still pretty effective.”
With fewer funds devoted to intelligence efforts, Chinese agents have resorted to forms of hacking that are easy to track, Aid said.
While much national attention is currently placed on China, Aid said he’s concerned there is a limited amount of knowledge about North Korea, which has lacked an American embassy since 1950. Aid said the North Korean government has increased spending on national security over the last decade, and currently has the fourth largest military in the world, with 1.7 billion troops.
“I can tell you from personal experience that underestimating North Korea is a horrendous mistake,” he said. “What bothers me about North Korea is how little we know about it. But what we do know about it suggests that it is has the capacity to lash out and does not necessarily act logically or rationally.”
Junior Tc Vu, who attended the lecture as a requirement of the Global Agenda course, said Aid’s thoughts on North Korea offered new perspective.
“I really appreciated what he said about North Korea because it was such a big difference from what I’ve heard from a previous speaker,” Vu said. “We’ve actually heard that we shouldn’t worry about North Korea because it’s under-equipped and their army is in [particularly] strategic bad shape.”
Aid predicted a shift of American intelligence from battlefield to strategic targets in the near future. Focus will move from Afghanistan and the militant Islamist organization al-Qaida to North Korea, China and Iran, countries he considers threats.
Aid said he is critical of the Pentagon’s recent report indicating American success in Afghanistan.
“The Pentagon says the war is being won, and the intelligence community says that’s a load of poppycock,” he said. “It bothers me that the Pentagon has exclusive control over the messaging to the American public on this issue and we are not getting any counterbalancing ideas from the rest of the government.”
Aid said the War on Terror will draw the majority of intelligence resources because the core leaders of al-Qaida are still at large. He said the group may be eliminated if the American and Pakistani governments send troops to northern Pakistan, where al-Qaida members are believed to be hiding.
“[Al-Qaida] may be on life support, but unfortunately it’s still there,” he said. “I think we have to be mindful of that until the last member of al-Qaida is declared dead.”