The massive breach of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) earlier this year was a criminal act, not an authorized government hack, China’s state-run news agency reported Wednesday.

{mosads}The claim is buried midway through a report on U.S.-China cybersecurity talks currently underway in Washington, D.C., led by China’s Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun and United States officials including Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Among the cases discussed included the one related to the alleged theft of data of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management by Chinese hackers,” the report reads. “Through investigation, the case turned out to be a criminal case rather than a state-sponsored cyberattack as the U.S. side has previously suspected.”

No further details were offered. The claim was published only on Xinhua News Agency’s English-language site and was not repeated in Chinese-language reports, according to The New York Times.

U.S. officials have long asserted that the OPM hack — which exposed the personal information of more than 22 million federal employees and others — was state-sponsored espionage originating in Beijing.

But the White House has refused to publicly point the finger at Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration, and China has denied any involvement in the incident.

Security and foreign affairs experts say the administration’s reticence to blame China has likely been because the U.S. conducts similar intelligence-gathering missions.

They note that the stolen data has yet to show up for sale on the dark Web, shoring up arguments that the hack was motivated by traditional state intelligence needs.

The ongoing meetings in Washington are the first official talks on cybersecurity between the U.S. and China since early 2014, when Beijing pulled out of discussions over the indictment of several Chinese military officers.

Under discussion are the logistics of executing a September agreement — revealed during Xi’s state visit to Washington — in which both sides pledged not to conduct, or knowingly support, commercial espionage.

Onlookers have been skeptical that China will keep its end of the bargain, although several security firms have noted it may take time for Beijing to unwind its vast hacking apparatus.


The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video