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Iran Press TV

CIA officers pulled from Beijing after OMP hack attack

Iran Press TV

Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:27AM

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pulled a number of officers from the American Embassy in Beijing as a precautionary measure following the cyber theft of millions of government employees' personal data, says a report.

US officials attributed the massive breach of Office of Personnel Management computers, disclosed earlier this year, to the Chinese government.

The theft of data has been characterized by senior US officials as political espionage intended to identify potential spies and blackmail individuals to provide valuable information.

Officials told The Washington Post that the Chinese could cross-reference the OMP records, which contained the background information of State Department employees, with the list of embassy personnel as anybody not on that list could be a CIA officer.

The CIA's move was meant to protect officers whose agency affiliation might have been exposed as a result of the cyber theft, officials said on condition of anonymity.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, said both the US and China engaged in such espionage activities, which he said were different from cyber theft of US companies' secrets for purposes of economic or commercial gain.

"We, too, practice cyber espionage and … we're not bad at it," Clapper said, while suggesting that it would not be wise to punish another country for what US intelligence services also do.

The United States and China reached a historic agreement on cyber security last week.

President Barack Obama said during a press conference Friday with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping that the two countries reached a "common understanding" not to conduct theft of trade secrets and intellectual property in cyberspace.

The United States has for years accused China of stealing trade secrets and other information from US companies, while insisting that it does not conduct cyber theft for purposes of economic or commercial gain.

Beijing has denied such activity. The intelligence disclosures of former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, about widespread US cyber operations overseas have also given China ammunition to counter the US claims.

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