The U.S. government has accused North Korea, a reclusive, almost dysfunctional state, of being “centrally involved” in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November, during which hackers downloaded personnel data, including salary and employee performance reviews, private emails, and other confidential, and in some cases embarrassing, information, much of which they have since leaked on the Internet.
In an echo of Pres. George W Bush’s warning soon after 9/11, Pres. Barack Obama has promised to respond to the cyber attack “in a place and time and manner that we choose.” Sure enough, soon after North Korea began experiencing crippling Internet outages, which many analysts believe have been orchestrated by the United States, something the administration refuses to acknowledge.
Several security experts remain unconvinced that North Korea was behind the Sony attack, and some suspect that it is the work of a disgruntled former employee. It may be months or years before we know for sure. But let us grant the U.S. administration the benefit of the doubt that the attack was in fact orchestrated by North Korea. After all, the North Korean government is livid with Sony over a satirical movie, The Interview, spoofing the assassination of North Korean “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un.
But all the U.S. fulminations and outrage are surely hypocritical, considering that perhaps no government on earth engages in as much digital spying and even cyber attacks as the United States. It, for instance, is believed to have been behind the 2010 Stuxnet attack on Iran to disrupt its nuclear program by sabotaging centrifuges enriching uranium.
An 18-page document, officially titled Presidential Directive 20, leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in October 2012, outlined the benefits of cyber attacks in advancing U.S. security objectives “with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging.”
Snowden’s disclosures also opened a window on the vast global surveillance apparatus of the U.S. government, targeting countries and leaders of both hostile powers as well as its allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of 122 foreign leaders drawn into its web, protested that “spying among friends” was “unacceptable” and compared the NSA with the loathed Ministry for State Security Stasi in the former East Germany.
The U.S. hypocrisy on cyber attacks is par for the course, however. The country is the self-appointed guardian of nuclear proliferation, even though it possesses three times the number of strategic warheads as Russia, the country with the next largest stockpile. Indeed, it has more warheads than the rest of the world combined.
It is also the world’s policeman and frequently injects itself into resolving conflicts all over the globe, in Asia, in Africa, in Europe, even though it has fought far many more wars and invaded far many more countries than any other nation in the last six decades.
In this world, the rule of law — and the morality undergirding it — is defined not by grace or righteousness, but strength. This is the morality of power, not of truth. And it is strutting the world stage now.
In the Bible, the Lord said: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” He was surely wrong. They may well inherit something else, some other time. But not this earth. Most surely, not now.