Jan 222002

Said Master Po to his student, “Grasshopper, look beyond the game, as you look beneath the surface of the pool to see its depth.”

The news this weekend is loaded with bugs, and not those of the living, grasshopper variety. It was reported in two newspapers that 27 extremely sophisticated listening devices have been uncovered in a Chinese 767, the one that happens to belong Chinese President Jiang Zemin. These bugs reportedly use satellite-controlled technology and are extremely sophisticated. Given this information and the fact the jet was purchased and refitted in the United States, the suggestion was made that the bugs are ours.

The crazy thing is that neither the Chinese nor the U.S. wants to confirm or deny these allegations, even though President Jiang is reported as being “furious.” This “small event,” as a Chinese official called it, will simply be added to the list of topics Presidents Bush and Jiang will discuss at their summit in February.

Furthermore, U.S. analysts familiar with Chinese foreign policy are slightly surprised but not shocked at the allegations, while most everyone else, from Boeing to top government officials, won’t discuss the “rumors” (as Boeing called them) at all.

“Rumors?” Given that these bugs were actually discovered way back in October, it’s hard to dismiss these allegations as still simple rumors. Obviously, somebody is lying.

Is it the Washington Post and the Financial Times that first brought us the stories? Is it the Chinese, who ransacked the plane and left it gutted out at some airport? Or is it the United States government who potentially planted the devices in the first place? Many analysts say the U.S. spies on even its allies all the time, so why not on China with whom we’ve been having so many problems as of late?

All we know is that nobody wants to talk about this discovery, except to say that it is a small event, regardless of who did what to whom. This leads to other questions.

What, short of nuclear Armageddon, is a big event? Who else is the U.S. spying on? Is this spying limited to foreign domains or is it domestic as well? What is the motivation for planting these bugs – what danger is present that makes their planting worth the risk? Just by this airplane’s “alleged” bugging alone, we could have enough conspiracy theories to make even The X-Files feel ashamed.

Asking “what if…?” theories to the point of suggesting our government is using miniature circus dwarves to infiltrate Chinese sewers and rigging them to back up in every Beijing home at the first sign of hostilities is ridiculous, and so are most other “what if” conspiracy theories. It is still worth pondering, however, why all our governments seem to have the need to spy on each other and then cover-up such attempts when exposed. In our case, it is worth taking a look at who is giving these orders and if they truly reflect the wills of the American people – we still live, according to most “rumors,” in a democracy, after all. It is most likely, however, that even when all the cold wars are over, even when our military might has conquered every “terrorist nation” in the world, we will still have a need for spying to ensure national security.

But, as Master Po also said to Grasshopper, “Evil cannot be conquered in the world, it can only be resisted in one’s self.” The question of if spying is evil certainly depends on your own point of view. Even still, one can only wonder if America, in its quest to erase evil everywhere, can possibly continue to resist evil in itself.

Ken Hamner is a cynical graduate student.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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