National Security

Ex-CIA head: ‘Shame on us’ for allowing government hack

The historic theft of millions of government workers’ data was “honorable espionage work” and a “legitimate foreign intelligence target,” according to former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

“This is not ‘shame on China.’ This is ‘shame on us’ for not protecting that kind of information,” Hayden, who also previously served as head of the National Security Agency, said at The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network meeting in Washington on Monday evening.

“If I as director of CIA or NSA would have had the opportunity to grab the equivalent in the Chinese system, I would not have thought twice,” he said. “I would not have asked permission. I would have launched the Starfleet, and we would have brought those suckers home at the speed of light.”

The comments increase the pressure on the Obama administration and amount to the clearest signs of frustration from former intelligence leaders about the inability to securely guard records at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

“My deepest emotion is embarrassment,” Hayden said.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has acknowledged that millions of current, former and retired government workers’ data had been stolen. As many as 14 million people might have been affected in that breach. 

Last week, reports emerged about a second hack that resulted in the theft of detailed background information about intelligence agents and military personnel.

Behind closed doors, officials have claimed that the fingerprints lead back to China, which has amassed a robust team of hackers and could be able to use the information to turn spies, blackmail government officials or otherwise steal sensitive American secrets. 

Hayden’s comments appeared to go into more detail, saying the breach was the work of China’s Ministry of State Security, a top intelligence arm that is “very roughly” the Chinese equivalent of the CIA.

China has denied involvement in the data theft.

Tags Michael Hayden Office of Personnel Management

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