The CIA pulled a number of officers from the US Embassy in Beijing as a precautionary measure following the massive online theft of personal data of federal employees, current and former US officials said.
The move is a concrete impact of the breach, one of two major hacks into Office of Personnel Management computers that were disclosed earlier this year. Officials have privately attributed the hacks to the Chinese government.
The theft of documents has been characterised by senior US officials as political espionage intended to identify spies and people who might be recruited as spies or blackmailed to provide useful information.
Because the OPM records contained the background checks of State Department employees, officials privately said the Chinese could have compared those records with the list of embassy personnel. Anybody not on that list could be a CIA officer.
The CIA’s move was meant to safeguard officers whose agency affiliation might be discovered as a result of the hack, said officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
The CIA declined to comment.
The counterintelligence risks of the OPM breach are significant, Clapper said. He noted that the intelligence agencies do not know specifically whose records were taken. But the scale of the compromise – more than 22 million individuals’ records breached – “has very serious implications … from the standpoint of the intelligence community and the potential for identifying people” who may be undercover.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “this is a gift that’s going to keep on giving for years.”
Full article: CIA pulled officers from Beijing after massive cybertheft of US federal personnel records (South China Morning Post)