Cybersecurity

Spy chief skeptical of Obama’s anti-hacking deal with China

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper doesn’t have high expectations for the recently inked agreement between the U.S. and China to not hack private companies.

“Hope springs eternal,” Clapper told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday morning. “I think we will have to watch their behavior and it will be incumbent on the intelligence community to depict to policymakers what behavior changes, if any, result from this agreement.”

Asked by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) whether he was optimistic that the agreement would result in a reduction of hacks on U.S. companies, Clapper replied with one word: “No.”

{mosads}President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Friday a “common understanding” under which neither country will conduct or support corporate espionage. The agreement also creates a “high-level dialogue mechanism” for the two countries to investigate such cases.

Lawmakers immediately expressed concerns that the arrangement is unenforceable and won’t mitigate the number of hacks on U.S. firms originating in China.

“There’s a difference between an agreement on paper and having the Chinese government, including the People’s Liberation Army, actually stop conducting and supporting cyber attacks on U.S. companies,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

McCain echoed those concerns in his opening statements on Tuesday.

The committee chairman called the agreement “more vague commitments” from China and lambasted the Obama administration for “either [taking] no action or [pursuing] largely symbolic responses that have zero impact on our adversaries’ behavior.”

McCain also criticized the deal for granting discussions with China to develop “rules of the road” for appropriate conduct in cyberspace.

“What’s worse, the White House has chosen to reward China with diplomatic discussions about establishing norms of behavior that are favorable to both China and Russia,” McCain said, indicating that such rules would have to recognize protection of intellectual property rights.

“The Administration should not concede this point to autocratic regimes that seek to distort core principles of the international order to our detriment,” McCain said.

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