U.S. and China Working on Bilateral Cyber Arms Deal

The United States and China will negotiate a cyber arms deal during Chinese President Xi’s visit to Washington this week, reports The New York Times.  According to the article, officials involved in the talks told The New York Times that the deal will most likely include a commitment by each party to “be the first to use cyberweapons” to take down the other’s critical infrastructure during peacetime.

Another source within the Obama administration, however, told The New York Times that the resulting agreement will not likely include an explicit prohibition on attacking critical infrastructure.  Instead, the agreement will likely be a general acceptance of the code of conduct in cyberspace developed by a United Nations working group, the article reported.  The UN cyber norms report include the principle of refraining from condoning or conducting cyber activity that intentionally damages or otherwise impairs the use and operation of critical infrastructure that provide services to the public.  The UN report, however, does not speak specifically to the use of cyber tools to steal intellectual property to benefit national companies.  Accordingly, the agreement will not likely address the use of cyber tools for the theft of intellectual property, the activity that makes up the bulk of China’s conduct in cyberspace, according to The New York Times.

Entering into a bilateral deal with China concerning conduct in cyberspace is a slight depart from the Obama administration’s cybersecurity foreign policy.  The 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review state that the US government should seek both “bilateral and multilateral arrangements that improve cybersecurity” for the protection of US interests.  However, according to the White House website, the current US cybersecurity policy favors the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance.  The US will “oppose efforts to … eliminate the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance,” the White House website states.

Additionally, members of the administration have reiterated the administration’s support of the multi-stakeholder approach.  In fact, in December 2013, Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary and US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy at the US Department of Secretary, expressed support for the multi-stakeholder approach, and announced that the US “welcomes all discussion of enhanced multi-stakeholder cooperation.”  In April 2014, the US participated in the “Global Multi-stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance,” a summit hosted by the Brazilian government.  There, the US stated that the summit could advance and promote a “more inclusive structure” if: 1) “the agenda is developed in a truly multi-stakeholder fashion; 2) participation at the meeting is broad and inclusive; and 3) any follow on activity is guided by, and ultimately supportive of, the multi-stakeholder system rather than an intergovernmental mechanism of centrally imposed regulation or mandates.”  More recently, Julie Zeller, the Senior Deputy Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy at the US State Department, stated that although it has made “progress in advancing the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance,” some countries continue to promote a system where “governments have the sole or dominant voice.”  Ms. Zeller made the remark in July 2015, at The Marvin Center at George Washington University.

Clearly, the Obama administration favors a multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance which brings together businesses, civil society, non-governmental organizations, governments, and academia, over a system where governments are the primary rule makers.  A bilateral cyber deal with China, however, will be a move in the opposite direction.


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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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