Spy head: ‘Jury’s out’ on whether China quit hacking after deal

The Obama administration still can’t assess whether China is adhering to a September pledge to stop hacking private American companies, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers on Thursday.

“I think the jury’s out,” Clapper said in a rare open House Intelligence Committee hearing.

“We have seen some reduction, but I don’t think we’re in a position to say at this point whether they’re in strict compliance,” he added in response to the question from Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.).

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington in September, he and President Obama struck a pact to end the digital theft of intellectual property and trade secrets.

Analysts have said that the U.S. private sector was losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year to Chinese hackers that were swiping their proprietary information and passing it along to Chinese competitors.

But while China agreed to end these practices in September, many have cast doubt on whether Beijing has actually followed through on its promise.

During his opening remarks, Clapper acknowledged that “China continues cyber espionage,” drawing a line between Beijing’s legitimate digital spying and its digital theft for commercial gain.

“Whether its commitment last September moderates its economic espionage remains to be seen,” Clapper said.