State confronts China over Google – kind of, over lunch
There are reports around Washington that the White House is taking the news of China’s intrusion into Google seriously, convening high-level meetings to take the hardest look yet into the vulnerability of American government and corporate assets to Chinese government cyber espionage. And what is the State Department doing to confront the Chinese government on ...
There are reports around Washington that the White House is taking the news of China’s intrusion into Google seriously, convening high-level meetings to take the hardest look yet into the vulnerability of American government and corporate assets to Chinese government cyber espionage.
And what is the State Department doing to confront the Chinese government on a diplomatic level? Apparently, discussing it over some dim sum.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley proudly announced at Wednesday’s press conference:
"We have had a discussion today here in Washington with officials from the [Chinese] embassy. We raised the issue. And as the secretary said, it is a serious issue. You know, the incident raises questions about both Internet freedom and the security of the Internet in China. And we’ve asked them for an explanation."
The sharp State Department press corps pressed Crowley for details about the meeting. That’s where his story unraveled a bit.
How many State officials met with how many Chinese officials? Apparently one of each; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Shear met with the Chinese DCM. And did the meeting happen at the embassy or at the State Department? Neither.
"It might have been at lunch," Crowley said, inspiring a round of laughter by the reporters. It’s not clear even whether the lunch was about the Google attacks, or if it just came up.
Still, there are signs that the State Department is planning to take the Chinese to task over the incident. Today there are reports that State will send a formal protest to Beijing about it (State didn’t respond to requests to confirm).
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give what is being billed as a major speech on "Internet freedom" on Jan. 21. A State Department official previously told The Cable that the speech was going to be about innovation on the Internet. Clinton dined with Google CEO Eric Schmidt just last week, but State isn’t saying whether they are coordinating their response.
Josh Rogin is a former staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshrogin
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