Chinese spy fear: NASA's NTRS taken down by a Wolf
Overreacting to Chinese espionage (both real and imagined), Congressman Wolf's taking down NASA's big public database does far more damage to America's future than China ever could.
This article, written by a physicist who has worked in advanced planning for the Pentagon space program in Washington, D.C., as well as for the purely private sector in Asia for 18 years, makes arguments which fill in a lot of the gaps not seen in discussions elsewhere, perhaps to some extent because NASA officials and contractors kowtow to Wolf who is the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee which funds NASA, and would not dare to speak their mind for fear of a bite being taken out of their own appropriations.
As this author has no such dependencies, I am free to make public arguments which many others may not dare to express. Indeed, I've received comments that attempts to get others in the American aerospace media to address the NTRS takedown have resulted in no action.
We must stand prepared to address these fundamental issues of open public access to NASA R&D for progress in space development vs. excessive secrecy and restrictions imposed by the paranoid. We must weigh the strengths of an open society and entrepreneurialism versus the kinds of fears promoted by the Military Industrial Complex.
This article goes further to address realistic issues of espionage, international collaboration, interdependence as a foundation for peace, and why the Chinese could never keep up with the entrepreneurial west even if they got most of NASA's NTRS data like the rest of the world. Indeed, the Chinese probably have for so many years already.
The alleged spy on trial -- a brief history of events
However, this is not just about China, and information access issues like this are common in other realms, too. It's a big, multipolar world out there, whereby China is actually a very small part of it as regards cutting edge R&D, open collaboration, wealth, influence and power. It's a post Cold War era of transnational constructive engagement, multinational business, and binding peace. It is amazing that so much was cut off by one particularly powerful Congressman in an obsession over China.
While sensitive military designs such as fighter aircraft and missiles should be ... and has been ... controlled, the taking down of the public NASA NTRS, and the circus of events surrounding it, is an example of abuse of raw power by Congressman Wolf who has a history of attacking many kinds of things having to do with China, out of perspective.
What we need is a contemporary mentality with a more balanced viewpoint and approach to China and other societies which is much broader and goes way beyond what arrogant government bureaucrats say and do. The engines of change and greatest real powers are with the myriad multinational businesses and entrepreneurs in the greater public, with the power of government people shrinking in today's world, but it is the power of the entrepreneurs both in the US and globally, as well as practical American leadership, which has been most damaged by the cutting off of the NASA NTRS. We should not take a step backwards towards the old world view of the 74 year old Congressman, nor others of that Cold War genre.
Anybody for collaborating with me to set up a bigger open source international database focused on space resources which is independent of NASA but includes all of the subset of NTRS on space resources in particular (not anything on missiles, fighter jets, etc.), and which is multinational, please contact me. I have such a database already which I've worked on for 25+ years, but would like to join up with others for this purpose, as long as it stays open source, ensures international access, and promotes collaboration.
The Alleged Spy On Trial
First, for those who don't know already, starting sometime around March 21, 2013, access to NASA's Technical Reports Server (NTRS), the world's leading database on space development which was extremely popular and useful to American entrepreneurs as well as engineers and scientists in countries around the world, resulted in this block screen:
"The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access while the agency conducts a review of the siteís content to ensure that it does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed. The site will return to service when the review is complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
The NASA NTRS is like an Amazon of scientific publications on space development for many of us, a database focused on R&D by a wide variety of sources, a place which many people have come to rely on as a central distribution point, and the sole source of many online publications, as many authors do not run their own websites but just rely on this central source for everybody to search.
The NTRS takedown happened suddenly with this sequence of events in 2013 instigated by US Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), an aggressive China critic for many years who has more recently pushed NASA to become much more secretive. Wolf gains much of his power because he chairs a subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, which is in charge of NASA funding.
An alleged classmate (Chinese) states that Jiang was an expert in image processing which explains why he carries data storage devices with him, in comments under a news article. space.com
Jiang did not get another job, so when his visa was near expiration he planned to fly home to stay, until he got another job, possibly in Europe. He originally scheduled to leave April 5, but after he was named in a Washington, D.C., newspaper on March 13 (or was it Aviation Week on March 14?) he allegedly hurried his schedule to March 16. DailyPress
Crying Wolf -- The Case Is Dropped
After going thru all the data, Government officials found nothing which they could go forward on in trial.
The charges of lying to federal agents, which could possibly have resulted in imprisonment for up to 5 years and a $250,000 fine, were dropped.
Bo Jiang pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of misusing government office equipment by installing software and copying pornography and pirated movies to the NASA computer, and was released on time served but ordered to return to China within 48 hours.
Current NASA employees and contractors take note: Do not copy movies, porn, or any unauthorized software onto any NASA owned computer.
It would have been interesting if the government had found and revealed that there was a whole lot of unclassified and open source information on the computer storage devices which had nothing to do with Bo Jiang's job or personal interests, as that could have implied that he was being operated by Chinese intelligence sources. Even though not illegal and not grounds for prosecution, it would have at least lent credence to Wolf's concerns and been face saving to some degree. However, I have not read anything along these lines.
It looks like all that drama, expense, and upheaval with the NTRS was unjustified. The Wolf pack should have known that when they inspected the laptop from his previous trip. Had Wolf not linked Bo Jiang to the shutdown of the NTRS, it could have been more understandable of a precaution.
The defense attorney, among others, made this case reminiscent of the McCarthyism "witch hunts" for communists in America in the 1950s. While McCarthy actually had some valid information and points, he unfortunately made a mountain out of a molehill which damaged his own cause and credibility, as well as victimizing a lot of people who were otherwise enthusiastic about America as the land of opportunity.
Who's afraid of the big bag Wolf, Virginia's Wolf?
At this time of budget cuts and sequestration, Wolf has actually been patriotically pushing for an increase in NASA funding, albeit with an aim to fund a beef up of security. Wolf is carrying both the carrot and the stick -- his power over the money. The NASA budget was set to come out in early April, so the timing was good for Wolf.
Official reactions to Wolf have been muted, and indeed, NASA officials have been kowtowing to the Appropriations Chairman. You don't hear of many NASA officials using their freedom of speech to argue against Wolf, nor to ask "Who's afraid of the big bad Wolf?", that is, Virginia Congressman Wolf, lest a big bite be taken out of their appropriations.
A lone Wolf?
Wolf argues nationalistically that NASA's openness could lead to American job losses. Indeed, Wolf has gone against other parts of NASA over export controls ... even though exports to the world create American jobs.
In reaction to these events, others have pointed out that international cooperation is necessary for space development due to the limited budgets of each country. Indeed, other countries have been taking on increasingly collaborative approaches for this reason. Wolf is pushing NASA to go against the trend of peaceful interdependence and instead towards isolationism while the rest of the world moves forward.
Indeed, several people have pointed out that the US has no manned space launch capability now, while China and Russia do, due to NASA budget cuts. American astronauts currently go to space on Russian rockets.
It has been over 50 years since the Apollo landings on the Moon in 1969-72. The US government now has a huge budget deficit and crisis, and we are in sequestration with no solution in sight. Idealistically talking the talk is easy, but walking the walk depends upon realism.
Meanwhile, the US private satellite industry has lost a large percentage of its market to competitors in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere, due to sweeping US government regulations prohibiting exports of satellite components since the 1990s (ITAR, discussed below).
While Bolden has advocated working with China on space science and exploration, in public and in testimonies to other subcommittees, Wolf undercut him by inserting into the 2011 budget a resolution banning the use of federal funds to support bilateral science exchanges with China.
Many people point out that what has brought peace between China and America has been economic interdependence and collaboration between its peoples on many levels, mainly in the purely private sector independently of the governments.
There are some other, more fundamental issues raised this article which thus far I've not seen discussed in public, which argue that public access to the NTRS is immensely more beneficial to America than any threat by China could ever be.
Just how much support the powerful Congressman Wolf has on the NTRS issue is not clear. Is he a "lone Wolf", or who else supports the takedown of the NASA NTRS?
Opinion - Open Literature for Entrepreneurs vs. Government Bureaucrat Spies
First, I have previously worked for the US Department of Defense in advanced planning in the space program with a high security clearance, and I have also been a user of the NASA NTRS database over many years in the purely private sector (not just as a government contractor). There is a big difference in the sensitivity between the two, as far as I have seen, for the most part. There are some questionable items on things like particular cutting edge military fighter aircraft and rockets, but the vast majority of data in the NTRS is relatively benign.
While an expert could understand the differences, on the other hand a layman like Wolf, who is not an engineer or scientist and has little experience in the international technical literature, may be overly awed by the information in the NTRS.
Sure, there are Chinese spies in America, Russian spies, even spies from nonaligned as well as "allied" countries, both government and private sector business spies. The majority of data collection is open source information, though some people call that "spying", depending upon who is collecting the information. Some of this is just buying or otherwise gaining access to commercial products to inspect. Likewise, there are American spies in Russia, China, and many nonaligned and "allied" countries. "Oh, but that's different..."
Indeed, to take offline the NTRS is way too late. They almost surely downloaded everything of interest from NTRS a long time ago. The main thing to do is start vetting NEW stuff on the NTRS. Meanwhile, the rest of the old NTRS should go back online right away, perhaps minus the most obvious document categories.
As an open society, we are so far ahead because we are open, and due to our purely private sector of entrepreneurs who are not living off of government money but instead pursuing cutting edge research and development paths which others are not, and much more quickly than any government. (In fact, it is our strong private sector which makes our country rich enough in order to pay enough taxes to fund NASA government sector work far more than competing countries.)
I've worked in Asia since 1994, and have many friends and associates who have worked in China. Given the same information, Westerners will improve upon it. Many Chinese will try to copy it, with little if any improvement, often not implementing a copy as well. When you have a problem, if your first reaction is to look for a copycat solution somewhere else, rather than analyze and create your own solution for your particular needs, then you won't keep up well.
Government spies are bureaucrats, and often gravytrainers. Translating all the available information into viable, productive competition is not something well known in the world.
To let the Chinese espionage operation "influence Washington" to shut down the NTRS to American entrepreneurs (outside the government contractor gravytrain) would be a give-away victory to the Chinese, whereby they must be laughing their collectivist butts off about their power to cut off their greatest threat -- private sector entrepreneurs, the engine of America. Chinese hackers didn't need to take it down, Wolf did it for them, and is keeping it down persistently.
Foreigners who are more loyal to America than ... China? ... are very important:
For example, NASA has no human launch capability since the Shuttle was retired, and its main hope is the purely private sector Space X rocket, which is a company founded and developed by a foreign entrepreneur named Elon Musk who immigrated to America from South Africa. Musk said he came to America because "It is where great things are possible."
In addition to countless American entrepreneurs, there are many highly talented foreign immigrants drawn to America, as well as overseas engineers collaborating with Americans, who are neither government workers nor government contractors but purely private sector entrepreneurs, who are published authors of papers on the NTRS, and are in America for its open society, not in China.
"Outsider" entrepreneurs, not government insiders nor contractors, have made big differences in America's greatness from the beginning to the end. For example, take aerospace:
The inventors of the first airplane: In 1898, the American government's War Department started to spend a large sum of money on a government contract led by the highly reputable Samuel Langley to develop a powered flying machine in the Washington, D.C., region. Langley failed. However, in 1903, two unknown Ohio guys who ran a bicycle business, the Wright brothers, using their own money, were successful in creating the first airplane with a gasoline powered propeller motor at a very tiny fraction the cost, while Langley was still trying unsuccessfully and making excuses while saying he needed still more government money.
Importantly, the Wright Brothers had learned from Samuel Langley's research and development work in 1899, thanks to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian in 1899 would be the modern day equivalent of the NASA NTRS. The Wright Brothers were not government contractors but were purely private sector.
It would be interesting to find out how much Elon Musk learned from the NTRS.
The asteroid retrieval mission in Obama's new 2014 NASA budget was the idea of a young scientist from Italy named Marco Tantardini who persistently promoted it while inside the USA with influential space advocates such as Lou Friedman of the Planetary Society, who initially thought it was crazy but eventually came to understand its merits and supported the idea, whereby over time it became the prevailing recommendation. (Tantardini is back in Italy working as an entrepreneur, but keeps in contact with his American collaborators.) OrlandoSentinel
There are countless other cases where key technology was created by entrepreneurs who got no money from the government, though many of them benefited from reading the literature written by other people in research and development, such as documents in the NTRS.
This is not just copying materials in the NTRS. This is improving upon them and staying ahead. The Chinese are somewhat good at copying, but not so good at innovations. It would be interesting to know what they would have done with Langley's Smithsonian depositions in 1899.
Any belief that the Chinese government's employees can beat American entrepreneurs with all the NTRS data in their hands in a space race has been funny, a joke ... until this time when the Chinese have their copies of the NTRS documents while access to the NTRS has been taken down from upcoming American entrepreneurs.
If you think the US government has risk-averse and complacent gravy trainers, just look at the history of communist apparatchiks. You really must be paranoid to fear them so much as to change how you do business, shutting yourself off to the world.
The American dream is a magnet. People from all over the world want to work with Americans, who are more trusted and respected. How many people want to work with China? I don't want to glorify America, it's just that America controls the NTRS, which contains technical R&D work from people all over the world, both as collaborators and immigrants.
China is such a small part of this! And Wolf wants to shut down the NTRS over just one entity, China? Why the obsession?
Wolf, like government, needs to concede and just get out of the way.
Governments won't get humanity off this planet self-sufficiently. Only free enterprise will. That's the main reason why I stopped working for the American government space program, and PERMANENT has been for private sector, nongovernmental development for over two decades.
By private sector, I don't mean government contractors. I mean purely entrepreneurial, and surely multinational, free enterprise entities who are willing to take risks with their own money and able to act quickly to race ahead.
Many need to eventually become an American company exporting in order to thrive and compete in the greater world. The American economy benefits from exports.
America's government space program hasn't gotten far in the 50 years since Apollo. Today's leading companies for space resources are all purely private sector -- Planetary Resources, Inc., Deep Space Enterprises, Inc., Golden Spike, Inc., and many others -- and these companies advocate private sector, nongovernmental development of space.
By closing down NTRS to private sector entrepreneurs, Wolf is undercutting the prospects of "security" for our next generation.
PERMANENT's main argument is that we should be thinking about "species security" and "international security", not just "national security". Look at what humans in every country of the world are doing to the environment on this planet. Global warming. Damage to ecosystems. We need to move our manufacturing off of the planet. That is what permanent.com is about -- solutions.
We need to stop competing for the limited resources on Earth. We need to start working on the UNLIMITED resources in space, so we no longer need to fight. Actually, we need to cooperate as multinationals for that.
It's best if space is developed without weapons, and for peaceful uses, by the rule of law. We need verification, not secrecy and paranoia. Cooperative ventures bring security.
The rest of the world has grown up. The US government needs to allow American companies to show their work in NTRS to potential investors and vetting engineers in many parts of the world to develop this sector of the global economy, which will surely benefit the United States economy, as well as create a better world for our children and other precious life on this planet.
A lot of the technologies developed by American entities should be advertised for export, not restricted by export controls, and not be hoarded. The market inside the US is a tiny part of the world market. If we don't export, the Europeans, Japanese, and others will. Indeed, that has already happened.
Fear over Chinese efforts to get American satellite technology in the 1990s resulted in the US government adding satellite and spacecraft components to its International Trafficking in Arms (ITAR) ban. That killed a lot of American export business and leadership. Foreign manufacturers began buying alternative components from other countries or developing their own, instead of buying American ones, then sold satellites which were "ITAR-free". Meanwhile, American manufacturers got bogged down by red tape and attendant extra expenses. FlightGlobal
Foreign nationals are permitted to work as NASA contractors, but not permitted to work as NASA government employees. The contractor option is often called a loophole which needs to be closed to protect America, but actually America is the beneficiary of the loopholes because the big losers are usually the foreign country who suffers a brain drain as many of their best educated and brightest people leave to work and live in the U.S. Cut them out and they may go home or to Europe or Russia or India to become a competitor.
Many of the foreigners who work as NASA contractors can be turned into exceptionally good emissaries to their own countries for developing cooperative ventures and/or buying American exports.
The NTRS is a big magnet for talent to engage with America. China does not have such a magnet. Nor does Russia. Take away the NTRS and they may drift to Europe or elsewhere after all. America may lose some key talent influx.
There also needs to be a spirit of good will from the American government. Political arrogance is not appreciated.
With some people, there is a lot of ego which goes into secrecy, privilege, and application of power (including abuse).
The NTRS should be owned by the people, not the government, and be subject to the will of the people, not a Lone Wolf or his ilk.
We must think of the world which our next generation of children will live in, and the future of life on this planet.
We are no longer living in a nationalistic world run by government elite powers. National borders are not as significant in the age of internet and multinationals. To call China "Communist" is a joke -- it's run by business overwhelmingly, peacefully interdependent with America. Beyond China, American secrecy, privilege, arrogance, and dictatorial demands of others are not always appreciated. I would tell Wolf's ilk to try to put yourself into the shoes of the Europeans, Australians, Japanese, and others and then look back at the Wolf pack and US government insiders with sudden privileged access to the NTRS.
As 30 year Washington, D.C., political veteran James Muncy put it, "Leaving aside all of the humor, there is an important lesson to draw. There are some disgruntled employees at NASA Langley and NASA Ames (and probably elsewhere) that don't like NASA working with any foreigners or entrepreneurs or anyone 'outside' and therefore fabricate allegations to drive away the 'others'..." NASA Watch
As others have pointed out, racial and national prejudice can drive away talented and hard working immigrant "competition" who have come to America to pursue the American dream and contribute to local teamwork. Can you put your feet in their shoes and imagine how these people feel -- Chinese, Russians, Muslims -- when one of their kind is banned from NASA facilities, fired, then threatened by a Wolf, imprisoned, dragged thru all this bad publicity, and then pressured to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and get a criminal record for which others are very rarely prosecuted (misusing government office equipment)? When doors are slammed shut in their faces, they can be driven back to their own countries to work for adversaries, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to treat people with more respect and equality.
(Note: In this article, I refer to "gravytrainers", which are people who in their government or govt contractor job do not really care about costs or efficiency, just do the minimum, bill to the max, take the minimum of risk, and are not really willing to go the extra mile for solutions exceeding expectations, while this sort of people are working at high taxpayer expense. It's just taxpayer money, so nobody cares? They live off our taxes, we hard working private sector entrepreneurs, so disrespecting us in various ways is objectionable. This is not to say all contractors and government people are this way, as I know many who work hard and are willing to do just about anything to create greater success and far exceed expectations and requirements. A lot of government R&D is well worth it. However, big government projects overall tend to turn into jobs programs, with massive budget overruns, delays, and often poor measures of success, largely due to do-the-minimum while bill-to-the-max contractors and cronies.)
Fear -- Back to Being Subjugated to the Military Industrial Complex?
Fear is a much stronger emotion in many humans than anything else, whereby imagined nightmares can influence decisions more than visions of a better future due to international collaboration.
To some people, fear gives them a better lift than coffee.
To some others, fear is money, and there are many gravytrainers among government security contractors (as well as others willing to put their lives on the line for their country).
Scientific studies have shown that fear blows vastly out of proportion peoples' perceptions of the significance of many isolated incidents. For example, flying is the safest means of transport, yet many people fear it more than driving, and also fear terrorist bombs, but the probability of dieing that way is less than getting many extremely rare diseases in the US, whereby it's better for your health to just not worry.
Yet, many sales pitches use fear successfully to get attention (especially the mass media, always focusing on bad news), or to get votes, or to press for a decision on a matter. Better safe than sorry? Secrecy can also take away from progress otherwise, however, so that we isolate ourselves and don't stay so far ahead.
In covering the Jiang case, Wolf is quoted in typically sensationalist Fox News reporting as stating: "What they did here potentially could be a direct threat to our country ... The Chinese have the most comprehensive spying program in Washington that has ever been. They make the KGB look like they were the junior varsity or freshman team." FoxNews
(In the same article, Fox News extensively quotes former FBI investigator Bill Daly, who is now a senior vice president of a government security contractor, Control Risks Security Consulting.)
Fear and imagined nightmares is the kind of insanity that has funded the Cold War, as well as the invasion of Iraq looking for WMDs, dented America's image in the world, broken the US government budget, and ultimately weakened America's economic and military strength.
(Also, back in the decades of the fear of monolithic communism, when we believed the Russians and Chinese were close, conspiring partners when they actually had their own differences ... how many ruthless dictators has the American government propped up around the world over the decades simply because "the enemy of our enemy is our friend", regardless of their repression or their own citizens and rampant corruption? Remember Vietnam and "the Domino theory".)
What has made America great is its entrepreneurial economy, moreso than its military. (To some extent, Hollywood influences the world, too.)
While fear can result in excess secrecy, on the other hand, secrecy can drive fear, too. If we don't know what each other are doing, because it's secret, then we tend to plan for the worst case scenario, which in turn fuels an escalating arms race.
Open skies policies for verification encourage peace, while collaboration and interdependence gives more people a stake in continued peace, and solidifies the peace.
If China damaged the US, what would that do to China's economy, or China's loans to the American national debt?
Talk is easy, and we need to see the rhetoric of politicians as just talk which may not reflect the hard realities. We can ignore many political statements as little more than hot air. However, when they pull up a database which is crucial for getting humans off the planet, then it becomes dead serious.
Space development and its unlimited resources can transcend the nationalistic competition on Earth for limited resources and narrow interests (and shut up many saber rattling politicians).
Space will not be developed by America alone, but paranoid US policies can reduce America's share of the pie, as well as our credibility and influence. The US would be unilaterally failing to make the most of its current leadership position. There are many space agencies out there. The rest of the world has grown up and is richly capable.
For example, America blocked Chinese participation in the International Space Station (ISS) while Europe and others were positive to China's collaboration. The result? China went it alone and started their own space station project, which has been coming along well, thereby giving China greater capability and autonomy in space.
I know many western people who have worked in China on projects, both as CEOs and as employees for multinational companies. (I have lived and worked in nearby Thailand since 1994, and occasionally in other Asian countries.) Practically all of them laugh off as naive the whole notion that the Chinese are a great threat. They can copy simple things with good management, especially western managers who export, and can put together large systems which are not too advanced, but so many homemade things are full of defects. Quality is an issue. There are some exceptions, but those are still following the west conceptually by many years, and mainly cheaper rather than better. There are some good Chinese thinkers and innovators, but they are the exceptions, and there is not anywhere near enough of them.
Even when the Chinese steal ideas (which is rampant there), and even steal equipment right out of the multinational factory (!), in most cases they still have difficulty becoming a viable competitor.
The face of China -- those most impressive skyscrapers in Shanghai -- are largely still designed by western architects and engineers, not Chinese.
High technology transfer has actually gone a lot slower than so many businesses have hoped. Indeed, many multinationals are going back onshore ("reshoring") to their Western countries after disappointing attempts at productivity, whereby China's cost savings are offset by lack of valuable productivity and the inability to keep up with competition, among other reasons for reshoring.
It's important to understand what China is good at, versus what they're not so good at, and the realities of the timelines.
People who think that Chinese are going to steal all our ideas out of the NTRS and then race ahead of us are just dreaming a nightmare. If they could have, they would have a long time ago. China couldn't keep up.
American security contractors and government people will always say things to justify their existence and budgets, but try dealing with the Chinese yourself and form your own independent opinion ...
I have traveled to China. It's difficult to find any Chinese brand. That tells you something about their orientation, and weak innovation at even the conceptual level. Products are overwhelmingly western in style and design. Things are done in western ways. That is besides the fact that the quality of domestic products is also often poor. It's not the same in Thailand and many other places where there are lots of local brands and designs, you feel like you're in a unique culture, and people take more care and a bit more pride in their work.
In China, it's like few people care about anything except making money and expedients. I would be surprised if enough people are interested in long term space development in order to further their program at a competitive rate. There are faster ways to make money.
The Chinese space program is run by the government, not the Chinese private sector. If you think western governments have efficiency and innovation problems, imagine China's government corruption and cronyism, promotion by loyalty rather than merit, gravytrain positions, and turf battles, without a free press to expose corruption nor to protect people who blow the whistle. Corruption is not even shameful in many circles in Asia, unlike in the West.
(Not that many NASA officials are exercising their freedom of speech to question Wolf ... hence, I'm trying to fill in some gaps.)
Here is a main point:
The west and its multinational partners around the world will remain far ahead of the Chinese even if the Chinese try to copycat much of our advanced technology. It doesn't mean they can implement it successfully. The Chinese are struggling just to stay within sight of us in their space program.
We need to stop entertaining sensationalist nightmare fears of the Chinese, and getting ourselves all bent out of shape over them, to the point of making ourselves dysfunctional as well.
Let me tell you, it's best if America just races further ahead by staying an open society and giving free enterprise entrepreneurs all they can get, not getting too secretive and closing down the NTRS.
There is a lesson to be learned from the Wrights about how NOT to try to win an aerospace race -- by being secretive, greedy, and argumentative instead of outracing competitors with further R&D and collaboration.
The Wrights did not win either the commercial or technological competitions after initial flights, out of arrogance. Fellow American entrepreneur Glenn Curtiss did, who first flew in 1908, also funding his own R&D over many years. The Wrights were very paranoid of copycats and were extremely secretive, so others did not believe their claims that they had flown, carefully hiding their experimental efforts. The Wrights also didn't want to collaborate. Curtiss collaborated with many people, and probably did not know much if anything about the Wrights' design. It was Curtiss, not the Wrights, who had the first public demonstration of an airplane in the USA, where he flew his airplane nearly a mile. The Wrights made no flights at all in 1906-07, instead spending their time trying to sell their secret airplane on rigid terms, trying to get the US military and then other governments to sign contracts without a flight demonstration nor even photos.
The Wrights were rebuffed by the US military until after they went to France to market, where an American Army man in France met Wilbur and convinced American officials who had rejected them before to reconsider. Indeed, it was in France, not America, where the Wrights first became famous in 1908, by their initial public flight demonstrations, the first coming about a month after Curtiss' public flight in the USA. After that, the US military and other Americans believed the Wrights could fly.
Unfortunately, the Wrights spent too much time on business travel haggling with others over business matters, to the point of incurring widespread public criticisms, while Curtiss was out tweaking his airplanes, beating Wright aircraft from 1909 onwards in just about every way by developing many innovations and refinements over the next few years, and surging far ahead in business collaborations and deals.
Curtiss set up many companies which eventually merged and absorbed Wright to become the largest American aircraft manufacturer ... until after World War 2 when Curtiss-Wright lost their lead due to spending too little on R&D while focusing on existing government contracts so that they lost the emerging jet aircraft race to others. Curtiss-Wright sold off major assets in 1948 and shrank to making components.
America won't win the space by becoming very secretive, cutting back on potential collaboration with foreign entrepreneurs, and getting nationally greedy, arrogant and argumentative. Nor will America stay ahead by focusing on existing government contracts. The purely private sector is America's greatest engine of progress.
America will stay ahead by being an open society by attracting collaboration from its own purely private sector entrepreneurs, as well as from people all over the world who prefer to work with Americans (compared to Chinese). However, if we cut off the world from our key information or make things too difficult, then they will increasingly just go to the Russians, Europeans, Japanese, Indians, and maybe the Chinese for manned launch, whereby paranoid security specialists would have made a self-fulfilling prophecy and will keep complaining and sabre rattling infinitum.
China is guilty, but ...
I am no fan of China. We should all be fed up with their state sponsored hacker attempts, especially the "61398" unit of the Peoples Liberation Army (where 61398 is the Chinese address of the physical location of state run hacker offices in a residential district of Shanghai). While there hasn't been a Chinese equivalent of the Stuxnet virus or anything nearly that sophisticated, there has been systematic attempted break ins of US government and company servers, many successful, by these state sponsored Chinese hackers, and the Chinese government has not curtailed them despite specific complaints, unsurprisingly.
(Wolf had four of his staff office computers broken into in 2006 where the hackers allegedly took his files on dissidents in China and elsewhere in the world. He was informed by the FBI. Wolf blames China, which is probably correct.)
The same applies to corporate hackers and spam houses. The Chinese government doesn't crack down. It would not be "crying wolf" to focus on Chinese hacking and spam instead. (Most spam from China is laughably stupid but just volumnous. This tells you something about quality in China.)
However, it is notable that state sponsored Chinese hacking is not all that much different from hacking by others in the west. For the Chinese, this is mostly just hacking for information, not deleting the data of victims, not causing American power plants, pipelines, and infrastructure to shut down, nor anything like that. They are just trying to get information.
For the shut down of the NTRS, that's due solely to Wolf, not any hacker. For crying out loud...
On the other hand, if the US government spends more effort hacking our own servers and then warning its administrators of the vulnerabilities, we would be protecting our assets against hackers worldwide, not just the Chinese. Unlike the Chinese, others may try to damage power plants, delete data, and so on. Besides state sponsored hackers, even more dangerous can be irresponsible private individual egomaniacs, as well as non-state actors such as terrorists.
As for the Chinese, who wants to collaborate with a country known for copycatting and disrespecting investment partners, as well as government inaction towards, and even encouraging, some kinds of transgressions?
However, there are things that appall me about many countries, including my own, and we should recognize both the good and the bad of everybody, though we can only fix ourselves.
We should also be careful not to apply double standards.
As regards China, one of the best things we can do is reduce the adversarial attitude and work on shared interests, as constructive engagement. Both sides should. If China is a partner with many other countries in space development, interdependently, then we cement peace and cooperation.
The attitude of many Americans towards Chinese is considerably different from the attitude of most Chinese towards America. I have seen little indication that the Chinese people overall have a negative view of America, especially in private. Quite to the contrary. Many Chinese people I've known have been quite reasonable. Some of their politicians are another story, especially those who need an adversary to justify and protect their own position. America needs to keep these issues in perspective when dealing with China.
Likewise, American citizens overseas should not be vilified by the various policies and projects of the US government and military (such as the Vietnam and Iraq wars), nor the variety of espionage activities of the American government...
The image you form of the Chinese depends on who you deal with -- politicians, business people, mainstream Chinese working class, intellectuals, etc.
Sure, there are many Chinese who like Americans so much that they are also happy to copycat us, but many western companies and individuals copy good ideas and products, too, as much as they can legally. However, in the west, there is a higher percentage of people who are honorable towards intellectual property, and there is more shame upon those who copycat. When East meets West, these are some of the issues which should be raised in no uncertain terms, but this goes both ways because many westerners are not as honorable as some Easterners. It all depends on who you deal with. You may find that the Chinese space elite are not your typical Chinese.
We need to build ties based on shared interests, values, and hope for the future, if we are to use the more positive forces in China to overpower those promoting division and conflict. Indeed, America has many fans in China who like us more than their own government. Though they like making money and creating opportunities the most ... by multinational capitalism.
Banning cooperative ventures and constructive engagement can be counterproductive in the long term.
Having worked in Asia, a funny thing I've observed is that many people stop thinking and inventing because they simply copy the West. Need a solution? They don't try to figure it out themselves. Their kneejerk reaction is to look for something to copy. Copies don't work as well as the originals. Also, when faced with a problem with an existing system, a copied fix is often not as good as a customized fix. There are many, but simply not nearly enough, original thinkers in many organizations. For both of these reasons, there is less to worry about than we may fear and imagine.
When you are dealing with government people, there is usually little sense of urgency and productivity, in contrast to the purely private sector. The former tend to plod along seeking comforts. The latter tend to be pioneers way outside of the comfort zone of most people.
Beyond China -- Collaboration vs. Isolation
By cutting off the NTRS due to fear of the Chinese, Wolf has cut off access to everybody else in the greater world, too, including the American public and its private sector entrepreneurs, as well as our allies. Wolf has isolated access to US government insiders and contractors.
It is ridiculous that NASA has shut down NTRS public access over the overblown China fear. Any sinister Chinese officials must be laughing their guts out at how successful they are in getting America to shoot itself in the foot by withdrawing its strength in the world, even shutting down a key part of its open society, to slow down so China can catch up a bit. How powerful China is indeed -- psychologically, unlike real physical military power.
That only encourages the sinister minority of Chinese officials to do the same thing as North Korea's outspoken warmongering bluffers. Talk is so easy and cheap ... and Fox News will give you free P.R.
The real victims are everybody else in the world, not China.
Wolf has done some good work regarding human rights, and is right to raise questions. However, Wolf has used his power excessively to where he is causing more harm than good to America's best interests, the world's future, and even his own cause to compete with China.
NTRS documents are already reviewed for security concerns before going online. Due to Wolf, NASA has said it will review its documents in NTRS again. Unfortunately, that is a vast amount going back more than 50 years. Even if funding for this were available immediately and a new bureaucracy created instantly, it would still take an awfully long time to review such a volume of documents, which essentially would keep NTRS offline.
Wolf's attacks are responsible for one of the most persistent denials of service of a database server used by key entrepreneurs.
Since the Chinese almost surely downloaded everything of interest in the public NTRS already, long ago, the NTRS should vet only future documents extra carefully, but put the past stuff back online for those of us who didn't systematically raid NTRS long ago, but who instead had a bit more trust in our government to exhibit some sanity and stability, and belief in the strengths of an open society to continue to race ahead further.
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