By Patrick Lozada
The US government has turned to a Chinese company to provide satellite support for its military operations on the African continent.
In a hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, a Pentagon official told members of Congress that the military needed more bandwidth to support ‘warfighter needs’ in Africa and that “the bandwidth was available only on a Chinese satellite”.
Predictably, Congress got an anger hard-on. Representative Mike Rogers, who has gone on record calling China a “gangster regime”, sent out the following statement about the contract with China-based APT Satellite Holdings:
[the contract] exposes our military to the risk that China may seek to turn off our ‘eyes and ears’ at the time of their choosing. It sends a terrible message to our industrial base at a time when it is under extreme stress.
This is twelve layers of stupid. The Chinese government wouldn’t cancel a private contract with the US military because such a thing would be a monstrous and unprecedented provocation. And this nothing to do with the US industrial base. There was simply no other satellite that could handle the traffic, and unless you chuck a satellite into orbit tomorrow, it’s a moot issue.
Wired magazine echoes Rogers’s paranoia in a post titled, ‘Pentagon Paying China – Yes, China – To Carry Data‘. Setting aside that the author uses the word China like it’s the name of a serial rapist (“The Stevens family hired Herbert – yes, Herbert – to watch their daughter”), Wired also gives into China-baiting generally by hyping the security concerns that might stem from Chinese monitoring of this data, which would undergo extensive encryption anyway.
In the end, it comes down to expertise vs sentiment. On the one hand, you have career security experts who have guaranteed the safety and prudence of this project (and who’s careers would be beyond salvaging if this went belly up). On the other, you have armchair tech writers and a splotchy, xenophobic congressman. Who do you side with?