19 May 2014 19:47 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US may issue further criminal indictments against Chinese officials or nationals of other countries in coming months, top federal investigators said on Monday, and multiple indictments may be coming fairly often.
As the US Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier on Monday announced criminal indictments against five officers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), top federal officials indicated that other charges will be forthcoming.
Robert Anderson, executive assistant director at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), said that Monday's unprecedented indictment of the PLA officials for cyber espionage and theft was only the first of more to come.
“This first indictment of Chinese cyber actors clears the way for additional charges to be made,” Anderson said.
“This is the new normal,” he said, adding: “This is what you’re going to see on a recurring basis - and not just every six months.”
Anderson appeared to elevate US pursuit of cyber criminals to the level of the ongoing US campaign against global terrorism.
“If you are going to attack Americans - whether for criminal or national security purposes - we are going to hold you accountable, no matter what country you live in,” he said.
The Chinese government, through its Foreign Ministry, called the indictment "based on fabricated facts" and that Monday's developments jeopardise China-US "cooperation and mutual trust". The ministry said that China has lodged a protest with the US against the indictment.
"The position of the Chinese government on cyber security is consistent and clear-cut. China is steadfast in upholding cyber security. The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cyber theft of trade secrets. The US accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said.The Chinese government also pointed the finger back at the US, saying that revelations in the past year of US spying on foreign governments, companies and individuals show that it is the US that is guilty of such cyber espionage behaviour.
"It is a fact known to all that relevant US institutions have long been involved in large-scale and organized cyber theft as well as wiretapping and surveillance activities against foreign political leaders, companies and individuals," Qin said. "China is a victim of severe US cyber theft, wiretapping and surveillance activities."
FBI director James Comey said that the Beijing government has been persistent in its cyber espionage efforts.
“For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries,” Comey said.
“The indictment announced [Monday] is an important step,” he said, but not the last.
“There are many more victims, and there is much more to be done,” Comey said. “With our unique criminal and national security authorities, we will continue to use all legal tools at our disposal to counter cyber espionage from all sources.”
“State actors engaged in cyber espionage for economic advantage are not immune from the law just because they hack under the shadow of their country’s flag,” he added.
Anderson said that federal authorities moved forward with the indictments on Monday because “diplomatic efforts and public exposure have failed to curtail these activities”.
Attorney General Eric Holder, chief executive of the Justice Department, emphasised that Beijing had failed to respond to many earlier diplomatic entreaties from the US government.
“In the past, when we brought concerns such as these to Chinese government officials, they responded by publicly challenging us to provide hard evidence of their hacking that could stand up in court,” Holder said.
“Well, today we are,” he said, referring to the indictments.
The 56-page indictment details the alleged cyber espionage work by the five charged PLA officers over a period from 2006 to as recently as April this year.
Each of the five officers is named and identified with photographs, with some of them in their official PLA uniforms.
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