Obama administration decides not to blame China publicly for OPM hack
US government officials are nearly certain that the Chinese government was involved in the theft of sensitive personal information about millions of government employees, members of the US military, and employees of government contractors requiring background checks or security clearances from the systems of the Office of Personnel Management. But according to a report by the Washington Post, the Obama administration has decided to not publicly and officially call out China for the attack—in part because it might require the administration to reveal some of the US’ hacking of China to make the case, and expose other information intelligence and warfare capabilities of the National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI.
Ellen Nakashima, the Post’s national security reporter, citied anonymous conversations with officials involved with the White House’s decision-making process surrounding the OPM, and reported that the administration “has not ruled out economic sanctions or other punitive measures” for the theft of data from OPM. But US officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have “even expressed grudging admiration for the OPM hack, saying US spy agencies would do the same against other governments,” she reported.
Part of the calculus that went into the decision, one official told Nakashima, was that “we don’t see enough benefit in doing the attribution at this point to outweigh whatever loss we might [experience] in terms of intelligence-collection capabilities.” Another official said that the White House might opt to simply put sanctions in place under other justifications, and then privately communicate to the Chinese government that the sanctions were in fact in retaliation for the OPM hack.
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