James Clapper Not Optimistic About Obama’s Cyber Agreement with China

Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping
Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping / AP
September 29, 2015

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper indicated to congressional lawmakers Tuesday that he does not have confidence in the cyber agreement reached between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.

The Associated Press reported:

[Obama and Jinping] agreed not to conduct or knowingly support cyber theft of trade secrets or competitive business information. The White House said the agreement covers cyber theft where the intent is to provide a competitive advantage to a country’s companies or commercial sectors. At a Senate hearing, Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he was optimistic that the agreement would result in the elimination of such attacks from China. Clapper replied: "No."

The deal is meant to stop state-sponsored cyber attacks on businesses and does not cover all hacks. Obama’s decision to broker an agreement with Jinping indicates that he has backed away from issuing sanctions on China for its cyber attacks.

McCain (R., Ariz.) lamented the Obama administration’s failure to deter cyber attacks during the hearing Tuesday.

"We are not winning the fight in cyberspace," McCain said. "The problem is a lack of deterrence."

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work conceded that the Pentagon must increase its capability of deterring hacks.

"We do believe there are some things the department is doing that are working, but we need to improve in this area without question," Work said.

Clapper suggested that economic sanctions could be the best avenue by which to stop the "pretty pervasive" cyber attacks coming from China.

"I think there is a question about the extent to which the [Chinese] government actually orchestrates all of it or not," Clapper said.

Chinese sources were responsible for the massive cyber attack on Office of Personnel Management computer systems that compromised the data of about 22 million Americans, many of them federal workers. Nearly 6 million of the affected individuals had fingerprint data stolen.

"I raised once again our very serious concerns about growing cyber-threats to American companies and American citizens," Obama said of his meeting with Jinping on Friday. "I indicated that it has to stop."

The Chinese president was treated to a state dinner at the White House despite criticism from lawmakers.