Intel chief: Lack of OPM response makes hackers ‘bolder and bolder’

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that if the U.S. doesn’t respond to the recent cyberattacks on the federal government, it will cause digital adversaries to “get bolder and bolder.”

Pressure has been building on the Obama administration to retaliate or at least publicly accuse someone for the hacks at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

{mosads}The data breach exposed more than 22 million people’s sensitive information. Clapper called the stolen data “a gold mine for a foreign intelligence service, whoever it was,” during an interview Tuesday on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” 

Officials have said privately they believe China is behind the attack. But they have also indicated the White House will withhold from publicly blaming the Asian superpower over concerns about exposing classified intelligence.

Many on Capitol Hill have pushed back against the White House’s decision.

“This refusal is a strategic mistake, and the fact that we’re making it may indicate things are even worse than we’ve been led to believe,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) wrote in a Monday op-ed in USA Today.

On Tuesday, Clapper seemed to at least partly agree with the stance, potentially breaking with the administration line.

“I think that’s right,” he said when asked if not responding to the OPM hack would invite digital adversaries to continue targeting government networks.

Without established deterrents, foreign governments and cyber crime rings have gotten “bolder and bolder” with their attacks on the U.S., he said.

“And so I think the next … event or the next type of attack will involve deletion or manipulation of data as opposed to perhaps stealing it or denying service,” Clapper continued. “I think we’ll see a progression and expansion of that envelope until such times as we create both the substance and the psychology of deterrents.

“And today we don’t have that,” he added.

Clapper previously deviated slightly from the party line when he called China the “leading suspect” in the OPM hacks. The remarks are the clearest public indication so far that the Obama administration is convinced China is responsible for the digital assault.


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