Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Lin Case


 
[Ed. Note: Per the charge sheet, CDR Lin is charged with four violations of general orders, two counts of espionage, three counts of attempted espionage, three counts of making false official statements, four counts of unlawfully communicating defense information, one count of patronizing prostitutes, and one count of adultery. Other accounts have implied that Lin spied for both China and Taiwan (he is a native of Taiwan). So far, the charges and timeline would seem to indicate CDR Lin was compromised via a honeytrap, and may have been deceived into thinking that the secrets he passed were going to Taiwan, not the PRC. - AD]
 
The espionage, however, highlights critical strategic issues. The US Navy finds itself in a strategic environment facing competition against not one but two major powers—Russia and China. Both countries have taken advantage of a dwindling gap in US technological superiority to create areas of "Anti-Access/Area Denial" (A2AD). Both countries have deployed an array of surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, and the associated radars and command and control, from the Western Pacific to the Baltic and Barents Seas. Their operational objective is to keep US and allied forces at a distance and stop the United States and its allies from waging war in a manner we have displayed from Operation Desert Storm in 1991, to Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector in Libya in 2011, to Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. 
 
Attempting to gain sea control, operational access, and entry to A2AD air- and waterspace relies on advantages in information, targeting and decision timelines. In 2009, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead committed to making information a main battery of the US Navy. The signals intelligence from EP-3E and similar collection platforms is foundational to how the US Navy and joint force will fight in an A2AD environment. The cat-and-mouse game of acquiring precise intelligence on A2AD defenses, while remaining undetected in our maneuver space at sea, is a critical strategic aspect of the modern and future battleground. Disclosure of the secrets of our reconnaissance sensors may tip that balance against the US Navy in a future fight. 
 
Even while discussing information warfare and including cyber and electromagnetic domains in all-domain access, it is interesting to note that what Lin is accused of is good old-fashioned espionage. Rather than cyber espionage or computer network exploitation, which frequently appear in the press and popular culture these days, this was old-school human intelligence, exploiting human weaknesses as in Navy espionage cases of decades ago like John Walker—a US Navy Chief Warrant Officer who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union—and Jonathan Pollard—an intelligence analyst with the Navy who was convicted of spying for Israel

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