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Lawmaker calls out China on Internet ‘trade war’

Brings attention to cyber-espionage


** FILE ** Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican (Associated Press)

The chairman of the House intelligence committee is demanding that the U.S. and its allies “confront Beijing” over what he calls “a massive and sustained intelligence effort by [its] government to blatantly steal commercial data and intellectual property” over the Internet from U.S. and other firms trying to compete with China.

“Beijing is waging a massive trade war on us all,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, told a hearing on cyberthreats Tuesday.

In an interview with The Washington Times after the hearing, Mr. Rogers said research-and-development secrets, cutting-edge production technologies, and proprietary financial and other information is being stolen by China’s foreign-intelligence services “at a breathtaking pace.”

“Not just from U.S. companies, but also from our allies,” he said.

“It’s reached a point where [the United States] has to step out front” and provide some leadership to its allies, Mr. Rogers added. “If we all confront it together, I believe we can make a difference.”

He said there is no precedent for such “brazen and wide-scale theft of intellectual property from foreign commercial competitors” by any nation’s intelligence service.

“The technological leadership and national security of the United States is at risk because some of our most innovative ideas and sensitive information are being brazenly stolen,” Mr. Rogers said.

The attacks that have been reported, including those on Internet and email providers such as Google and defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, are “just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“There are more companies that have been hit that won’t talk about it in the press, for fear of provoking further Chinese attacks.”

Mr. Rogers is the latest on a very short list of leaders in the U.S. intelligence and security field to warn about the problem this year, but policymakers lack hard data about the issue.

The Times reported last week that the Pentagon had asked the nation’s intelligence agencies to estimate the cost to the U.S. economy of commercial cyber-espionage, which some analysts put as high as hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

The request for an estimate went to the National Intelligence Council, which produces National Intelligence Estimates, or NIEs, defense officials said.

NIEs represent the combined and distilled wisdom of the entire U.S. intelligence community, as the 16 U.S. spy agencies are known. They are generally produced to inform policymakers about grave threats to national security, such as the Iranian nuclear program.

Mr. Rogers acknowledged that being certain about who is behind a given cyber-intrusion is difficult because hackers can route their attacks through compromised computers anywhere in the world.

But he said, “behind closed doors,” victim companies “describe attacks that originate in China and have a level of sophistication and … a level of resources that can only be a nation-state entity.”

U.S. officials generally refrain in public from pointing fingers or giving names in connection with cyber-intrusions, especially against the private sector, but Mr. Rogers said he “thought it was important to name the offender.”

“This is not something that can be swept under the rug,” he said, noting that U.S. allies such as Germany and Britain have been more forward-leaning on publicly blaming China.

Last month, Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the National Security Agency and the commander of the U.S. military’s new Cyber Command, told a conference that he supported the administration’s practice of not identifying the author of major cyber-attacks because confronting foreign governments complicates the military’s efforts to track and attribute cyber-activity.

When confronted, “all they do is deny it” and seek to learn what they can from the confrontation about U.S. capabilities, Gen Alexander said.

Mr. Rogers and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, agreed that information sharing is key to securing critical U.S. computer networks.

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Shaun Waterman
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