‘Volt Typhoon’ fraud exposes deep-seated flaws in US national security mechanism
Published: Jul 09, 2024 06:36 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Recently, China conducted an investigation into "Volt Typhoon," a hacker group previously identified by the Five Eyes countries as a "China state-sponsored cyber actor." The investigation revealed that this labeling was actually a disinformation and public opinion manipulation operation orchestrated by US intelligence agencies. It also indicated that several federal government administrative organizations and the cybersecurity authorities from the other four countries of the Five Eyes were involved in supporting this operation. The investigation exposes a common tactic used by US intelligence agencies - "shooting the arrow and then painting the target around it." These agencies first create a so-called threat, then spread and exaggerate disinformation to fool the public in order to achieve their political objectives.

The investigation report reveals that the "evidence" supposedly proving the US' claim that "the attacks by Volt Typhoon came from China" was actually a manipulation of cyberattack evidence from other sources, falsely attributed to China. US security agencies used this to exaggerate the "China threat" to cajole and intimidate Congress into extending the authorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows US intelligence agencies to have "warrantless surveillance" power over the communications of foreigners overseas. In this process, groups such as Microsoft have coordinated with US agencies.

The false narrative of the "Volt Typhoon" is another example of the lying tactics employed by US national security agencies. It proves that these agencies will do whatever they take to cater to the security perceptions of the top decision-making bodies in the country.

In other words, the US-staged operation surrounding the "Volt Typhoon" is essentially a case where the distorted security perception of US policymakers inspired their subordinates to be indulged in fabrication.

Additionally, the pursuit of power and authority is a key driver for the US executive branch and the National Security Agency (NSA) to repeatedly step over the "warrantless surveillance" red line of US domestic politics. The so-called warrantless surveillance refers to the efforts of agencies, including the NSA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, to seek to carry out surveillance in an unrestricted manner under authorization.

This pattern actually has a long history: Classic examples of "warrantless surveillance" since the 1940s include COINTELPRO (short for Counterintelligence Program), Project SHAMROCK, Project MINARET and ECHELON, to name a few. In the absence of legal constraints, US intelligence agencies' actions outline a typical image of their abuse of power and "the rule of surveillance" under the cloak of democracy and the rule of law.

These lies not only caused great damage to the US' reputation around the world but also posed a substantial threat to its own national security. By fabricating and exaggerating threats, US intelligence agencies misled policymakers, gave rise to unnecessary conflicts and wasted resources. The devastating consequences of the "Volt Typhoon" operation, had it not been uncovered, would have been incalculable.

Moreover, this fraud undermines the US' own security interests and represents a serious departure from the core values upon which the country was founded. US intelligence agencies have frequently turned to a variety of means to circumvent legal restrictions governing surveillance, expanding their power and influence by creating and exaggerating threats. This not only infringes on the rights of US citizens and the country's governance structure, but also departs from the foundations of US political legitimacy, posing enormous risks, challenges and threats to global security and stability.

The "Volt Typhoon" operation has exposed the deep-seated flaws in the US national security mechanism. The international community needs to be vigilant against such a national security strategy of the US supported by frauds. It also needs to take more effective measures to prevent the occurrence of such cases, as well as to check and balance them, in order to limit the negative impact of those frauds to the greatest extent possible.

The author is director of the Research Center of Cyberspace Governance, Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn