Hillicon Valley: Trump DOJ charges Chinese hackers | House Intel to give Roger Stone transcript to Mueller | Senators lift hold on FCC commish | Slack deactivates Iran-linked accounts | Dem lawmaker calls on Facebook to fire Zuckerberg

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

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DOJ CHARGES CHINESE HACKERS: The Trump administration on Thursday charged two hackers linked to China's intelligence and security agency for engaging in a decade-long cyber espionage campaign against dozens of companies in the United States and around the world.

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime House Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe MORE and other top officials unveiled the charges at the Justice Department, part of an unprecedented international effort coordinated with the United Kingdom and other governments to call China out for theft of trade secrets.  

The hackers, said to be part of the Chinese hacking group APT10, allegedly compromised companies across many industries in the U.S. and at least 11 other countries by targeting managed service providers, which hold intellectual property and other sensitive business information.

The hackers are also accused of using spearphishing campaigns to target U.S. government agencies, including NASA's Goddard Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In another major development, officials also accused China of violating a landmark 2015 agreement between then-President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meant to halt cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property.

"The activity alleged in this indictment violates the commitment that China made to members of the international community," Rosenstein said in remarks Thursday morning. "We want China to cease its illegal cyber activities and honor its commitment to the international community."

Officials said Thursday that the cyberattacks were committed in "association" with China's Ministry of State Security.

The hackers are being charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The big picture: The charges represent the latest effort by the administration to thwart what officials describe as a pervasive and persistent effort by Beijing to conduct economic espionage and steal U.S. trade secrets. The developments are sure to ratchet up tensions with China, which have fluctuated for several months as a result of the administration's actions on trade. Read more on the charges here.

 

STONE TRANSCRIPT TO SHARED WITH MUELLER: The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to release the official witness transcript of Roger StoneRoger Jason Stone3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference MORE to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE's office.

A congressional source told The Hill that committee members voted to hand over the transcript in a unanimous voice vote.

The Washington Post first reported Wednesday that the special counsel's office had requested the official copy of Stone's transcript from his interview last year with congressional investigators. Former federal prosecutors told the newspaper that it could mean that the special counsel is preparing to charge Stone.

The special counsel's office declined to comment.

Stone, a longtime friend of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE and a one-time Trump campaign adviser, caught the eye of the special counsel's office after statements he made during the 2016 presidential election in which he suggested he had prior knowledge that WikiLeaks had hacked Democratic emails and would release them ahead of the election.

Stone has denied that he worked with WikiLeaks ahead of the Democratic email dumps. He told The Hill earlier this year that he was tipped off by a source with inside knowledge about the organization who said that it had information that would "roil" the 2016 presidential election.

Stone told The Hill on Thursday that he has not heard from the special counsel's office about the request.

Stone's attorney Grant Smith provided The Hill with a copy of a letter sent to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesWe've lost sight of the real scandal Twitter won't disclose who's running parody accounts being sued by Devin Nunes Nunes campaign drops lawsuit against constituents who accused him of being a 'fake farmer' MORE (R-Calif.) on Wednesday, requesting that, in light of The Washington Post's report on Mueller requesting the transcript, the document be made public immediately.

"Without regard to any decision or action the Committee may take in response to a request by the [special counsel's office], or any other person or agency, for a copy of the Interview transcript, either in whole or in part, Mr. Stone hereby demands the full and immediate release to the general public of the Transcript, such that the American citizenry and the world are able to evaluate for themselves Mr. Stone's veracity," the letter reads. Read more here.

 

YOU'RE FREE TO GO: A pair of senators on Thursday lifted their respective holds on a Republican FCC commissioner up for renomination, paving the way for the Senate to confirm him before the holidays.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Schumer: I don't know any 'Democrat who agrees' with O'Rourke on gun seizures O'Rourke: Many Democrats 'complicit' in gun problem MORE (D-W.Va.) on Thursday lifted his hold after the agency promised to prioritize rolling out funding for wireless broadband in rural areas.

Manchin announced the hold on FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr last week after the commission announced it would pause the funding program while it conducts an investigation into coverage data submitted by major wireless carriers.

Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall MORE (R-Alaska) also announced that he would be lifting a hold he had placed on Carr's confirmation, over concerns about the FCC's work on rural healthcare.

"After receiving concrete commitments and timelines from Chairman Pai to get the Rural Health Care program back on track in Alaska, Senator Sullivan lifted his hold on Commissioner Carr last night," the senator's office said in a statement. More on Carr's renomination here.

 

SLACK SAYS BYE TO IRAN-USER ACCOUNTS: Messaging company Slack is deactivating users with ties to Iran in accordance with U.S. economic sanctions against the country.

The Verge first reported that Slack this week deactivated the accounts of users in the U.S., as well as Finland and Canada, who it alleged were tied to Iran. The company sent messages to the users saying their accounts were removed because it had "identified your team/account as originating from" sanctioned countries.

Multiple people posted screenshots of the email on Twitter. One woman wrote that her account had been deleted because she "visited family in Iran and used Slack when there."

"I'm a PhD student in Canada with no teammates from Iran," a University of British Columbia student wrote. "Slack closed my account today!"

Slack's side: A Slack spokesperson in a statement to The Hill said it complies with all U.S. regulations that prohibit Slack's use in "embargoed countries and regions, as does every U.S.-based company."

More on the Slack controversy here.

 

FAKE NEWS CRACKDOWN...OVERSEAS: Facebook is closing several fake news sites in Bangladesh that have been spreading false information about the opposition party in the country ahead of next week's national elections, the social media company told the Associated Press.

There are fifteen sites in total, nine of which are meant to resemble real news sites. The other six are fake personal accounts spreading false propaganda, Facebook told the AP.

Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, told the news outlet that the sites were created by people with ties to the Bangladesh government and will be shut down by Thursday evening.

"These are fake but look like independent news outlets," Gleicher said, adding that the sites were each "pro-government and anti-opposition."

The terminating of the sites were "prompted by both external and internal evidence, including a tip from Graphika, a threat intelligence company that we work with," Gleicher added. He said the investigations into the sites began last month. More on the crackdown here.

 

FIRE ZUCK? Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushHouse Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries MORE (D-Ill.) on Wednesday urged Facebook to fire CEO Mark Zuckerberg after a bombshell report emerged that the tech giant granted other companies access to users' personal data without consent.

"The American people are tired of the excuses, the lies, and the deliberate evasion. It is utterly appalling that we are only presented with the truth when it has been exposed," Rush, who sits on the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said in a statement.

"Facebook is one of the world's most innovative companies. It is highly implausible its leadership repeatedly fail to understand their own policies of consent and the ways in which their product has been -- and continues to be -- manipulated and weaponized," he added.

Rush's comments come one day after The New York Times reported that Facebook allowed major tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon and Netflix, access to users' personal data. More here.

 

RUT-RO: A "human error" allowed a user of Amazon's Alexa smart speaker in Germany to have access to more than 1,500 recordings made by another Alexa user, according to a Thursday Reuters report.

When the Alexa user asked to hear his old recordings, he was provided access to 1,700 recordings made by a stranger via a link that Amazon sent him, Reuters reported, citing the German magazine c't. More on the mixup here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Amid tech industry backlash, both sides need to give a little.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Would it be better than the Weezer cover?

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Drones ground hundreds of flights at London's Gatwick airport. (BBC)

Uber to bring back self-driving cars after fatal crash. (CNET)

FBI seizes 15 DDOS cyber hackers for fire sites. (TechCrunch)

Investigation finds Chinese censors allowing Trump criticism on WeChat. (BuzzFeed)

'I'm in your baby's room': A hacker took over a baby monitor and broadcast threats, parents say. (The Washington Post)