"I have watched this thing grow... to the incredible proportions it has reached today. I have studied the facts ... facts, and by projecting the statistics I realized the time has come to act. I realized I had to act before the entire will and vitality of the free Western world was sapped and polluted and made rancid... The absolutely fantastic thing is that the facts are all there for anyone who wants to see them."
Are they the words of some expert ranting about Chinese hackers causing blackouts in the US? Or just your author being tricky, lifting a quote from General Jack D Ripper in Peter George's script for Dr. Strangelove.
While it looks obvious here, the mixed nuts are harder to discern in the mainstream news. CNN put an "expert" named Gordon Chang on primetime on the 29th. If you were in the States and watching you learned Chinese cybermen had been having a field day, inflicting a digital Pearl Harbor on the country, not once, but twice.
CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, was puzzled: "This term cyber warfare sounds kind of, you know amorphous, kind of hard to get your hands around it..."
Fifteen minutes later, Chang, author of an unintentionally hilariously entitled book called The Coming Collapse of China vaguely informed the news network, "Well, they say that two of those were really the Chinese caused blackouts in the United States, one in 2003 and the other..."
For Chang, "they" were a couple of chatterers from the press, more specifically, an article in the National Journal, a publication nobody but Congressional staffers and producers and editors of news organizations in Washington, DC, reads. (We'll get to it briefly in a moment.)
"We've always knows that our civilian networks, which are not protected as well as the defense ones, can be taken down, but we never really had a demonstration that it could, indeed, actually happen until a couple of years ago," continued Chang.
Pick a scare, any scare
The news story demonstrated one common feature of all stories on cyberwar. You can say anything you wish and not suffer a beatdown. The most remarkable, even ludicrous, things can be claimed. Once on paper, it's fair to discuss such things as if they had the reality of a piece of granite.
Since the Chinese had been causing blackouts, Chang reasoned the US government ought to show some backbone and give them a talking to. Angela Merkel of Germany had shown it. She had told off the Chinese premier, it was claimed. But Defense Secretary Bob Gates was not so bold. Gates had even had his e-mail hacked by the Chinese, claimed Chang.