American infrastructure is under cyberattack from two historically adversarial nations. The federal government has publicly acknowledged who was responsible, claiming that cybercriminals and nation-state-backed hackers have targeted American pipelines in malicious efforts to destabilize and damage pipeline operations.
Even though President Biden publicly disavows Communism, he does so as a deteriorating façade of a bygone era of Democratic governance.
One of these nations was met with swift sanctions and a face-to-face confrontation between leaders. The other nation was met with neither. One of these nations is a comparatively fledgling economic power that has not posed an existential threat to the United States since the Cold War. The other is a rising superpower with unprecedented influence in American society and economics that is threatening to usurp American global preeminence and export its totalitarian dictates throughout our sphere of influence.
Meanwhile, a revolution against an evil Communist government is taking place in America’s backyard, and the only responses that the global beacon of freedom can provide are politically expedient statements, a shut door to those who flee to our shores, and reluctant messages of support. Despite the outcries of the oppressed, protesters waving our flag as a symbol of freedom, and calls to action from top Republicans, the freest and most prosperous nation on Earth refuses to fully answer to the moment.
The United States of America faces an identity crisis precisely when the calculus for victory has never looked better. Instead of forging ahead to create prosperity within its borders and for its allies, our nation is falling prey to vicious ideologies that threaten our liberties and justice system. There was a time when Communism was a dirty word, and its atrocities were publicly known and acknowledged. Now, the most pernicious system of human organization ever enacted is having a disturbing resurgence among younger people and the political left.
Even though President Biden publicly disavows Communism, he does so as a deteriorating façade of a bygone era of Democratic governance. Meanwhile, a dangerous acceptance and promotion lie underneath his party’s fickle outer layer. This poorly concealed quagmire has manifested in inattentive and molasses-level responses in cyberspace policy. Instead of choosing to commensurately punish Chinese cyber malfeasance and provide internet access to Cuban dissidents, the Biden administration has decided to sit on their hands and allow evil Communist regimes to achieve unmerited victories.
A PATTERN OF NEGLECT
The recent announcement by the White House and its allies attributing the devastating and widespread Microsoft Exchange hack from this March to the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) looks all well and good at first glance. It is supposedly the first time that an alliance of Western nations has formally condemned malicious Chinese cyber activity. It makes sense that the attack was met with such an unprecedented reaction; this zero-day vulnerability, in which an unknown vulnerability is leveraged in a cyberattack, affected “tens of thousands of computers and networks worldwide.
No other nation on Earth poses a greater threat to America going forward than China, yet the retaliation they face due to blatant state-sponsored cyber-attacks is mute and ineffective.
The White House’s statement also came out alongside an indictment against four Chinese nationals associated with the MSS, accusing them of hacking into a multitude of private and public computer systems from 2011 to 2018 in attempts to steal valuable intellectual property “with the intent of providing competitive advantages to PRC companies or commercial sectors.” Notably, one of the successfully obtained targets of this operation that the DOJ specifically called out was data from companies and universities involved in Ebola virus and vaccine research. One can only speculate about the ties between this cyber activity and China’s recent plans to develop multiple new disease research labs à la the Wuhan Institute for Virology.
The villainy does not end there. In July, a joint cybersecurity advisory was released from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation disclosing successful intrusions from 2011 to 2013 into U.S. pipeline companies through a “spearphishing and intrusion campaign conducted by state-sponsored Chinese actors.” Of the 23 natural gas pipeline operators that were targeted, only three escaped being compromised. In the advisory, the FBI and CISA claim that the purpose of these attacks were to “[hold] U.S. pipeline infrastructure at risk” and “help China develop cyberattack capabilities against U.S. pipelines to physically damage pipelines or disrupt pipeline operations.”
Looking at all the headlines, it would seem that the United States federal government was taking the Chinese cyber threat seriously. Under closer scrutiny, however, these pronouncements are simply relying on a naming and shaming tactic. Without any hope for extradition of these cyber attackers, or financial repercussions like retaliatory sanctions incorporated in our response, these developments substantively amount to nothing but theater. For its part, China just flatly denied the accusations that were leveled back in March when it was first speculated that they were behind the attack, and, to no surprise, they are denying these recent ones as well.
Herein lies the confusing nature of the Biden administration’s stance towards China in cyberspace. No other nation on Earth poses a greater threat to America going forward than China, yet the retaliation they face due to blatant state-sponsored cyber-attacks is mute and ineffective. Back in May, Russian-based (not even Russian-backed), cybercriminals disabled and ransomed American oil pipelines and meat producers, and the Kremlin ended up on the receiving end of sanctions, a confrontational in-person meeting of heads of state, and a grandiose executive order aimed at improving American cyber defenses.
China, once again, has escaped any real accountability. Instead of utilizing the momentum of having the American public’s attention focused on cyber security, not to mention the ire of the world directed towards China because of the increasingly plausible lab leak theory, President Biden is letting this opportunity to temper Chinese aggression slip through his fingers.
Unfortunately, this outcome fits a pattern given the multitude of offensive and reprehensible acts of the Chinese Communist Party as of late that have gone unanswered. We know that Uyghurs are being rounded up in Xinjiang to be placed in reeducation camps, forcibly sterilized, and tortured. We know that Falun Gong practitioners are being persecuted and are subject to forced organ harvesting. We know that Hong Kong’s citizens are now under tyrannical rule, and Taiwan could face a similar fate in the near future. We know that Chinese fentanyl continues to pour into American communities, resulting in the devastating opioid overdose epidemic seen across the country. We also know that a mass theft of intellectual property is taking place to support the regime’s research and development efforts.
It is not surprising then that when Chinese hackers are caught invading American and other Western nations’ networks to gather intelligence, steal valuable data, and disrupt critical infrastructure, they are met with a simple acknowledgment of their efforts. An appropriate reaction to this whole boondoggle is that of despondency. As China ramps up its militancy in seemingly every aspect of its foreign policy, America remains asleep at the wheel, careening towards a cliff at breakneck speed.
FAILURE TO ACT
Cuba has been under an authoritarian Communist dictatorship for over 60 years. In all that time, the world has never seen protests such as they did in early July. Videos showing mass gatherings and a subsequent wave of arrests were widely broadcasted out of the country, gaining the movement global attention and support. Obviously, no other part of a revolution is as important as the beginning when it comes to generating publicity that will fuel it going forward.
Why call out the true reason for the calls of “Libertad” when you can advocate for more hysteria about COVID-19…
It seems that the party most keenly aware of this fact is the Cuban government. They made sure to stifle the spread of these provocative videos by limiting access to social media. According to NetBlocks, a global internet monitoring firm, network data from July 12th to July 18th shows that access to applications used by the protestors to communicate, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram, and even YouTube was being “partially disrupted.” NetBlocks director Alp Toker claims that the services are only partly interrupted to “maintain a semblance of normality.” It must have been easy for the Cuban government to enact such control over outbound internet connections as there is only one telecommunications service provider in the country: state-owned ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba or Telecommunications Company of Cuba).
Along with interfering with the communication tools of protestors, the Cuban regime sent out their muscle to patrol the streets and conduct targeted arrests of high-profile dissenters. Videos of such enforcement are quite disturbing, some even apparently showing state forces shooting live rounds at Cuban citizens. Another shocking video that spread throughout social media relayed the harrowing moments when Dina Stars, a young Cuban YouTuber, was arrested during a live television interview with the Spanish news channel Todos Es Mentira.
All these efforts to suppress the movement seemed to have worked. Much of the initial furor has died down. All that remains is a few calls to action by Republican representatives, and targeted sanctions that some, such as Senator Marco Rubio, are calling “symbolic but meaningless” seeing as they target individuals and groups already under sanctions. What started as an inspirational cry for freedom has dissipated into an echo of American idleness.
President Joe Biden and his administration had an opportunity at the outset to stand up to this tyrannical government and propagate a free and open internet. On July 15th, Biden indicated that he was “considering” whether America had the technological capability to provide internet access to the island. On July 18th, the commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Brendan Carr, tweeted out support for the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board’s piece on restoring Cuban internet, saying that “American enterprises have the technical capability to circumvent Cuba’s Internet blackout. The question is whether the Biden administration will greenlight the effort—showing our support for the Cuban people.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Ed Board is right.
American enterprises have the technical capability to circumvent Cuba’s Internet blackout.
The question is whether the Biden Admin will green light the effort – showing our support for the Cuban people.https://t.co/0xI5dsB3Py
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) July 18, 2021
Putting aside the logistical and sovereignty challenges involved, the capability is there to hook Cubans up to the internet through the use of technologies like satellites, drones, balloons, or VPN services. The American people’s support is also there. According to a July Echelon Insights Poll, there is “strong bipartisan support for providing internet to Cubans,” consisting of 71% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans.
Instead of taking decisive action, it seems that the White House is still mulling over the decision. On August 10th, the Senate approved an amendment from Marco Rubio and Rick Scott that would create a fund to be used for restoring internet connectivity, placing pressure on the Biden administration to, as Senator Rubio puts it, “begin moving forward immediately.”
Acting quickly at the outset could have had unprecedented effects on the Cuban citizenry’s quest for freedom. Unfortunately, the Biden administration dilly dallied. However, if you are President Biden, why risk appearing sympathetic to those yearning for freedom when you have the politically valuable Black Lives Matter organization blaming the United States’ embargo for the poor living conditions on the island, and crediting the Cuban government for its “solidarity with oppressed peoples of African descent”? Why call out the true reason for the calls of “Libertad” when you can advocate for more hysteria about COVID-19 by blaming the lack of access to medicine for the Cuban people’s frustration? The White House seems to have already made a cost-benefit analysis, and found the benefits to be wanting.
THE CALL IS FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE
If it was not apparent enough, there is a serious issue fomenting within the mainstream Democratic party. On their left is a ravenous and unquenchable thirst for openly Communist governance. What was once a fringe section of the party has metastasized into an intransigent group of members who often get their way in policy decisions. Coupled with that is a rising cultural revolution, far too similar to China’s, doling out censorship and cancellation to all but the most leftist of causes.
As the internet globally connects us, no medium is more effective at spreading the image and ideal of American freedom.
The outgrowth of this cancer is evident in American life, both in the political realm and the day-to-day life of the average citizen. History is being rewritten in real-time, people’s lives are destroyed on a whim, and a chaotic uptick in violence has spread across the nation. In this instance, it revealed itself through the toleration of the world’s most evil regimes that are hell bent on subjugating their own populaces and exerting pressure on democratic nations. Instead of immediately working to support the Cuban people with access to a free and open internet, the Biden Administration chose to stall. Instead of imposing real costs on the Chinese Communist Party, the Biden administration feigned a coherent response, only to let the underlying issue grow with impunity.
When America is portrayed as the bad guy by its own citizens, and its founding principles distorted as the fount of pernicious systems of oppression, it is hard for it to be the beacon of freedom it needs to be. If everything the United States does on the world stage is framed as colonization and meddling, it will cease to be the symbol of strength and democracy for its allies and those living under the whims of despots whilst wishing for a better life.
As the internet globally connects us, no medium is more effective at spreading the image and ideal of American freedom. This is precisely why the internet is commonly targeted by those regimes who wish to quell individual autonomy and personal liberty. The internet also presents an opportunity for antagonistic governments to launch cyberattacks that spread quickly with disastrous effects. If these evil Communist actors are not held accountable with swift and decisive action, they will continue to poison what should be the single most effective way to empower humanity to thrive.
This article is part of a Human Events Opinion Special Collection, “RESURGENT COMMUNISM.” You can read the other pieces in the collection here.