China Eavesdropping

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 18, 2006 | Go to article overview

China Eavesdropping


Byline: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

China eavesdropping

Pentagon officials tell us China is engaged in massive electronic eavesdropping through a series of ground stations, many in western China. Some stations can now be viewed without a security clearance for the first time from high-resolution satellite photographs recently made available on Google Earth.

The officials said Chinese military and civilian intelligence units operate several key facilities in western China that are collecting hundreds of thousands of e-mails, among other electronic signals, that transit cyberspace through satellites. Using large dish antennas, the signals intelligence sites take the data and filter it using high-speed computers and commercial software obtained from U.S. companies.

By putting in key words, the Chinese eavesdroppers can gain valuable intelligence for both their military and commercial programs, the officials said.

One facility is located near Changi in northwestern China, which we first identified in this column in 2000 as it was being expanded with the addition of new satellite dishes. The Changi listening post is operated by the military intelligence unit known as the 3rd Department, 12th Bureau. It spies on foreign satellites and is thought to be part of China's anti-satellite program. A second major facility is located at Shule.

A third Chinese electronic spying facility at Kashi was able to predict the start of the U.S. ground war in Iraq in 1991 five days before it began by intercepting Saudi Arabian military communications, intelligence officials said.

Tim Brown, an imagery analyst with Talent-Keyhole.com, said the Chinese eavesdropping sites gather vast amounts of data transiting from Europe to Asia.

"They've got enough of a capability to selectively scoop up on a very narrow set of targets," Mr. Brown said, noting that the information is useful for economic espionage as well as military communications traffic analysis.

Undeclared war

There is a battle going on between Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR), and bureaucrats responsible for thousands of rebuilding contracts in Iraq.

But it's an undeclared war. As is his mission, Mr. Bowen simply puts out a series of reports detailing failings in the reconstruction effort. The bureaucrats, who don't dare publicly speak against an IG who has wide support in Congress, fire back by issuing a stream of press releases recounting accomplishments in Iraq.

Privately, Bush administration officials tell us that Mr. Bowen's quarterly reports and audits are too negative and that he glosses over what they have been able to achieve in the face of an extremist enemy who will kill anyone, at any time, to stop a project.

A good example of the battle unfolded earlier this month. Mr. Bowen went to Capitol Hill to testify on his most recent reports: one a quarterly report that described rampant corruption on the part of Iraqis; the other a history of the missteps and wasted time and money in developing contracting procedures in Iraq.

Here is Mr. Bowen's description of a project to build the Basra Children's Hospital. The contractor is Bechtel and the government sponsor is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The hospital was supposed to be completed by Dec. 31 last year.

"For a variety of reasons, including an increasingly hostile security environment, the project fell well behind schedule. On March 26, 2006, Bechtel informed USAID that the hospital could not be completed until July 31, 2007.

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