What if a team of Chinese agents had broken into the Pentagon or -- less box office but just as bad -- the
The next day, the newspapers and morning TV shows would show pictures of the broken locks and rummaged filing cabinets. And if we caught the Chinese spies in the act, perp-walking them for the world to see? Boy howdy.
My hunch is that the airwaves would be full of people talking about how "this was an act of war." And I have no doubt that if the situation were reversed and we had sent our team to
Meanwhile, in real life, it was revealed last week that the Chinese stole millions of personnel files and mountains of background-check information from the U.S. government. I suppose I should say the Chinese "allegedly" stole the information, but many lawmakers, government officials, anonymous intelligence sources and industry experts are convinced that the Chinese did it. Besides, we normally use "allegedly" in such cases because we don't want to prejudice a jury -- and this case is never, ever going to court.
The damage is hard to exaggerate. Former NSA counterintelligence officer
Countless current and past federal employees are now extremely vulnerable to blackmail and even recruitment by Chinese intelligence operatives. Millions are open to identity theft (the files included all of their personal information, including
Many are calling it a "cyber
And yet, this news took a back seat to
I can think of a number of reasons.
But that doesn't get to the heart of the matter. Science fiction writer
In the first "Mission: Impossible" movie,
This is the plot device that justified a famous scene -- now endlessly copied and parodied in popular culture -- in which Cruise descends from the ceiling on a rope to avoid the heat-sensitive floor. In the movie,
In real life, Cruise's job is a redundancy. Rhames can now do it all. But just because hackers have replaced brazen thieves doesn't make the theft any less real. It only magnifies the scale of the crime exponentially. If the Chinese had stolen paper documents, they would have needed a convoy of 18-wheelers to haul out the boxes. Similarly, if Clinton had shredded paper records instead of deleting email on her stealth server, I suspect that story would be more compelling as well.
We will likely be feeling the damage from this catastrophe for years to come. Perhaps in the process we'll learn to take these attacks more seriously the next time they happen.