Over the last 20 years or so, the conservative movement has undergone a renaissance in its posture towards the news media. The right has become more aggressive about flagging bias when it sees it, and the proliferation of cable and online news sources has created the market conditions for conservatives to counterprogram big media’s overwhelmingly liberal agenda.
During that time, many of us have developed a pretty thick skin for media malpractice. We know it’s there and we try to get it the public shaming it deserves, but we also take it is a given. But even those of us anesthetized to the practice have been taken aback by how badly the mainstream media has dropped the ball on foreign policy coverage over the past month or so — a practice exemplified by the press’s obsession with Mitt Romney’s (totally justified) reaction to the violence in the Middle East, even while the Obama Administration was proving itself to be at best clueless — and at worst, intentionally dishonest — about what was happening in the region.
Through that prism, it’s all the more remarkable that it took the Washington Free Beacon, a relatively new conservative investigative outlet to unearth this story:
Hackers linked to China’s government broke into one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks, breaching a system used by the White House Military Office for nuclear commands, according to defense and intelligence officials familiar with the incident.
One official said the cyber breach was one of Beijing’s most brazen cyber attacks against the United States and highlights a failure of the Obama administration to press China on its persistent cyber attacks.
According to the former official, the secrets held within the WHMO include data on the so-called “nuclear football,” the nuclear command and control suitcase used by the president to be in constant communication with strategic nuclear forces commanders for launching nuclear missiles or bombers.
The office also is in charge of sensitive continuity-of-government operations in wartime or crises.
The former official said if China were to obtain details of this sensitive information, it could use it during a future conflict to intercept presidential communications, locate the president for targeting purposes, or disrupt strategic command and control by the president to U.S. forces in both the United States and abroad.
Pretty jarring, right? But this ought to soothe your nerves:
… Officials said President Barack Obama was not notified about the cyber attack—which was traced to China when it was first discovered—but was informed about the incident later.
… [White House Press Secretary Jay Carney] sought to play down the significance of the incident and declined to provide specifics when asked if the attacked computer network was located within the White House Military Office. That office is in charge of presidential communications, travel, and the nuclear command and control suitcase known as the “football.”
“Let’s be clear: this is an unclassified network,” Carney said. “These types of attacks are not infrequent, and we have mitigation measures in place.”
“In this instance, the attack was identified, the system was isolated, and there is no indication whatsoever that any exfiltration of data took place,” he said, adding that the attack “never [had] any impact or attempted breach of any classified system.”
So no worries — the Chinese military was just trying to break into our most sensitive computer systems. They didn’t actually get anything.
Sleep tight, America.