American Elephants


Awkward Conversations: Please Stop Stealing Our Secrets! by The Elephant's Child

There are some quotations that come quickly to mind, when observing politics: This one is from Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion  about the battle of Flodden Field in Northumberland in 1513 — border wars with Scotland. I heard a lot of Marmion at the dinner table when I was young. I think my father had to memorize vast quantities in prep school.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Just when President Obama was going to have an important meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, and perhaps have a little conversation about, um, cyber-hacking, and then it turned out to be right in the middle of the revelations of Obama’s cyber-hacking of Americans with the Prism program and cyber-hacking the nation’s telephone calls through Verizon.  Makes it a little awkward.

AP White House correspondent Julie Pace:

Thank you, Mr. President. How damaging has Chinese cyber-hacking been to the U.S.? And did you warn your counterpart about any specific consequences if those actions continue? And also, while there are obviously differences between China’s alleged actions and your government’s surveillance programs, do you think that the new NSA revelations undermine your position on these issues at all during these talks?

And President Xi, did you acknowledge in your talks with President Obama that China has been launching cyber attacks against the U.S.? Do you also believe that the U.S. is launching similar attacks against China? And if so, can you tell us what any of the targets may have been?

President Obama:

What both President Xi and I recognize is that because of these incredible advances in technology, that the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules and common approaches to cybersecurity are going to be increasingly important as part of bilateral relationships and multilateral relationships. …

But I think it’s important, Julie, to get to the second part of your question, to distinguish between the deep concerns we have as a government around theft of intellectual property or hacking into systems that might disrupt those systems — whether it’s our financial systems, our critical infrastructure and so forth — versus some of the issues that have been raised around NSA programs.

Oh, schadenfreude of course. I just find it  — amusing.

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