Sanchez hammers Vietnam for alleged cyberattacks on human rights leaders

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) on Wednesday hammered the Vietnamese government for allegedly hacking the e-mail accounts of thousands of local human rights activists.

The congresswoman, who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee that chiefly handles cybersecurity issues, said she was "outraged by reports that Vietnam's government has been using the Internet as a weapon against its own people."

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Sanchez later said she had applied on Tuesday for a visa to visit Vietnam, specifically in response to this week's incident. The congresswoman promised to travel to the Asian state in the coming months "to meet with human rights activists to get their side of the story" and press the state's Ministry of Information and Communications to "personally condemn these recent cyberattacks."

“Time and time again, President Nguyen Minh Triet has proven he will stop at nothing to silence critics of his regime and shut down the free flow of information and communication in Vietnam," she said Wednesday.

"He and his government have taken steps to block access to a number of websites, including Facebook and other popular Internet forums, in the form of denial-of-service attacks," she continued. "This is unacceptable conduct from a country that wants to be an international political player, especially one that has promised to adhere to basic human rights standards and the rule of law."

Sanchez's scathing criticism arrives just days after Google researchers discovered countless Vietnamese human rights activists were the targets of a coordinated cyberattack. According to the search company, which first announced its findings on its security blog, hackers sought specifically to silence those who opposed the government's deal with China over a local bauxite mining project.

The U.S.-based security firm McAfee later announced those attacks may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. That set off a firestorm of criticism not too unlike what followed a January cyberattack on human rights activists using Google's Gmail system, which the company alleges began in China.

The Vietnamese government has since declined to respond to the accusations. But the silence has not stopped Sanchez and others from alleging the state's involvement in a plan to stamp out thousands of users' criticisms on the Web.

“It’s time for the U.S. and international communities, and any Internet service providers that are concerned by these attacks, to say ‘enough is enough!’ " Sanchez stressed.