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What all this scare talk has done is allow the U.S. military to muscle its way into cyber security in a way that could potentially allow it to monitor virtually everything on the Internet, including personal computers and email. In fact, the military has resisted a push to ensure cyber security through the use of encryption because that would prevent the Pentagon from tapping into Internet traffic.

There is no question that China-based computers have hacked into a variety of governmental agencies and private companies (as have Russians, Israelis, Americans, French, Taiwanese, South Koreans—in short everyone spies on everyone), but few observers think that China has any intention of going to war with the much more powerful United States.

However, Beijing makes a handy bugaboo. One four-star admiral told Hersh that in arguing against budget cuts, the military “needs an enemy and it’s settled on China.” It would not be the first time that ploy was used.