Week ahead: After Chinese visit, Congress turns to cyber

The House and Senate will lean into cybersecurity policy in a slate of hearings, after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit raised the profile of digital theft and weeks before expected consideration of a major cybersecurity bill.

Xi and President Obama on Friday surprised some by announcing the U.S. and China had reached a “common understanding” that neither government would conduct or support the online theft of intellectual property or trade secrets.

While many in Congress applauded the agreement, they also expressed serious skepticism that Beijing would uphold its end of the bargain.

It’s widely believed that Chinese officials are encouraging a massive digital campaign to steal U.S. corporate secrets for the benefit of domestic companies. The administration has also privately accused Beijing of orchestrating cyberattacks against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that exposed the personal information of more than 20 million federal workers, contractors and others.

“We cannot be blind to the damage already inflicted upon us by hackers linked to the Chinese government,” said Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Administration vows 'proportional' response to Russian hack Trump denies Russia behind attack, despite fed investigation saying otherwise MORE (R-Colo.) on Friday, shortly after the agreement was revealed. “The United States must make every effort to hold those criminals accountable immediately.”

Gardner will chair a hearing on the subject Tuesday, when the Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee on cybersecurity is scheduled to delve into the U.S.-China relationship.

Leading up to the state visit, Obama took heat from congressional Republicans for not slapping China with economic sanctions for its hacking. With Friday’s agreement, it appears the administration will hold off, at least for a bit. The delay has frustrated Obama’s critics, who will likely weigh in at Tuesday’s hearing.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee plans to hear from intelligence and defense leaders on cybersecurity threats and policy. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers are scheduled to speak. Rogers made news at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, accusing Beijing of lacking hacking boundaries.

“They clearly don’t have the same lines in the sand, if you will,” Rogers said. “I watch some of my counterparts there do things that under our system you could never do.”

On the House side, the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats will spend two days examining the Defense Department's new cyber strategy. Released this spring, the document includes an unprecedented focus on offensive cyber weapons.

On Tuesday, the subcommittee will host a number of private cybersecurity firm executives to hear feedback on the new approach. On Wednesday, members will hear testimony from the NSA’s Rogers and Terry Halvorsen, the Defense Department’s chief information officer.

Halvorsen recently said that a “culture change” within the Defense Department was needed to improve the nation’s cybersecurity posture.

“What keeps me awake is will we get the cyber culture right,” Halvorsen told a cybersecurity summit in Washington this month.

Also on Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will examine unanswered policy questions about cyber warfare.

The U.S. and China are rumored to have the framework of a cyber warfare agreement that would forbid either country from launching the first cyberattack on the other’s critical infrastructure during peacetime.



Obama raises trade, human rights in Xi’s welcome: http://bit.ly/1iuAdx4

Rubio hits Obama on handling of Chinese hacking: http://bit.ly/1NZeWt4

Court rules authorities can’t force suspects to reveal phone passwords: http://bit.ly/1iQNscf

White House considered, dismissed encryption access ideas: http://bit.ly/1VfToaF

HealthCare.gov faulted for weak cybersecurity: http://bit.ly/1QBZbG0