US intelligence chief: China top suspect in gov’t agency hacks

US intelligence chief: China top suspect in gov’t agency hacks

US intelligence chief: China top suspect in gov’t agency hacks

Patrick McFarland, inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management, speaks during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Witnesses testified about the hacking of Office of Personnel Management data. AFP Photo

US intelligence chief James Clapper said June 25 that China was the top suspect in the massive hacking of a US government agency that compromised the personnel records of millions of Americans. 

The comments from Clapper, the director of National Intelligence (DNI), were first reported in The Wall Street Journal and marked the first time the Obama administration has publicly accused Beijing of the hacking attacks on the Office of Personnel Management. 

“You have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did,” given the difficulty of the intrusion, the Journal quoted Clapper as saying at a Washington intelligence conference. 

In a statement, Clapper’s office confirmed that he had identified China as a leading suspect, although it said the US government investigation was ongoing. 

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he found it strange that the United States says it is both still probing the hack and also believes China is to blame. 

“This is an absurd logic,” he told reporters. 

US officials have previously blamed the attacks on Chinese hackers, though not publicly. White House spokesman Josh Earnest on June 25 declined to comment on any potential suspects. 

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that personnel data of 4.2 million current and former federal employees was compromised in one security breach and that another attack, targeting those applying for security clearances, had affected millions more. 

Some media have reported that as many as 18 million Americans could have been affected. 

Clapper’s comments came a day after the conclusion of three days of high-level talks between China and the United States in Washington at which cybersecurity figured prominently. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on June 24 there had been no US “finger-pointing” during those meetings about cybertheft “and whether or not it was actioned by government, or whether it was hackers, or individuals the government has the ability to prosecute.” 

Kerry also said, however, the US side had made “crystal clear” that cybertheft was not acceptable. He said the United States believed there was a need to work with China to develop a “code of conduct” on state behavior in cyberspace and that China had agreed. 

“It’s something that we agreed needs to be addressed and hopefully it can be addressed soon,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said on June 25.