Some in Congress Rally Against Chinese Hacking

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Rep. Mike Rogers called China's aggression on line "intolerable"

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A computer forensic examiner looks for evidence on hard drives at the U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center / AP

The United States and its allies in Europe and Asia need to band together and confront China's campaign of cyber espionage, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on Tuesday.

Although governments have long spied on each other, China has gone beyond that by engaging in "brazen and wide-scale theft" of intellectual property from commercial competitors around the world, Rogers said.

"I don't believe that there is precedent in history for such a massive and sustained intelligence effort by a government to blatantly steal commercial data and intellectual property," Rogers said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on cybersecurity.

This economic espionage, which is disputed by China, has reached an "intolerable" level, Rogers said. "Beijing is waging a massive trade war on us all, and we should band together to pressure them to stop," he said.

In August, the Web security firm McAfee reported that it had traced cyber intrusions of more than 70 companies and government organizations to a single nation state, which many analysts concluded was likely China.

Chinese state media dismissed the report as "irresponsible" and some U.S. experts also disputed the findings. Still, cyberattacks remain a sore point between China and many countries.

In June, Google said hackers in China tried to hack into the Gmail accounts of hundreds of journalists, Chinese activists, U.S. government officials, and others.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg," Rogers said. "There are more companies that have been hit that won't talk about it in the press, for fear of provoking further Chinese attacks."

He said any response to foreign cyberthreats will begin with legislation as well as more information sharing between the government and private sector.

Rogers' Democratic counterpart on the committee, ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, called for a comprehensive national strategy for protecting the U.S. from cyberattacks, including using the Department of Homeland Security as a liaison between the National Security Agency and the private sector.

Ruppersberger also said the White House cybersecurity coordinator needs operational and budget authority with "real clout" to make decisions. Congress has called for the coordinator to become more accountable to Congress by making it a Senate-approved position, but the administration has said the post has all the authority it needs.

"He must have a direct line to the president and the power to get things done," Ruppersberger said.

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Josh Smith covers technology policy as a staff reporter for National Journal.

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