Lynch: OPM hack could out secret agents

Lynch: OPM hack could out secret agents
© Getty Images

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says she has “grave concerns” that a foreign power could out undercover U.S. operatives using the data stolen in the recent hacks of the federal government.

“It certainly highlights the risk of cyber breaches in a very, very real, and a very, very life threatening way,” the head of the Justice Department said during an interview aired Monday on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s believed that China was behind the devastating data breach at the Office of Personnel Management, although the administration has declined to blame the Asian power publicly.

The digital intruders made off with sensitive data on over 22 million people.

“I’m one of those people,” Lynch said, “as is almost anyone who’s worked for government for the last 20 years.”

Most importantly from an intelligence perspective, the hackers compromised a security clearance database that housed exhaustive background investigation forms. Officials said 21.5 million people had their security clearance information taken.

That’s led to fears that Beijing could uncover intelligence officers that have been secretly stationed in China for years.

Although the CIA doesn't store data with OPM, it’s believed the vast troves of pilfered information could help Chinese officials connect the dots.

National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers addressed the concern during an interview last week at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

The stolen OPM data, he said, “gives you great insight potentially used for counterintelligence purposes.”

“If I’m interested in trying to identify U.S. persons who may be in my country, and I am trying to figure out why they are there. Are they just tourists? Are they there for some other alternative purpose? There are interesting insights from the data you take from OPM.”

Lynch acknowledged that the OPM intrusions are “a classic example of identity theft gone wild.”

Investigators, she said, are “dealing with the type of hack, trying to recognize it, trying to examine it, trying to see if it hasn’t been done before, using it to see what we can learn from it.”