The CIA Pulled Spies from Beijing after OPM Breach

A number of CIA officers were taken out of Beijing as a precautionary measure and a direct consequence of the massive data breach involving the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) earlier this year.

The Central Intelligence Agency evacuated officers from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China after the data breach involving tens of millions of federal employees’ and contractors’ personal details earlier this year, the Washington Post reports.

According to government officials, no employee records from the CIA were among the OPM breach. However, that hasn’t deterred the CIA from pulling “a number of officers” from Beijing, specifically because their names weren’t included in the breached State Department personnel files believed to be in the hands of state-sponsored Chinese cyberespionage operatives.

The breached OPM records contained background checks of State Department employees which, U.S. officials believe that the Chinese could have potentially cross-referenced with employee records of personnel in the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Essentially, the pulling of CIA employees from China was a move to ensure the safety of officers; U.S. officials told the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.

The revelation was made when senior intelligence and defense officials tried to explain their mode of operations and means to keep foreign operatives from launching cyberespionage operations, to a committee of “frustrated lawmakers.”

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr tried to make a distinction between the OPM breach and cyberattacks targeting U.S. industries and enterprise.

The OPM breach, “as egregious as it was,” was not an attack, Clapper said.

“Rather, it would be a form of theft or espionage,” he stated, before adding,

We, too, practice cyberespionage and. . . we’re not bad at it.

He spoke about any sanctions put forth to China for its cyberespionage operations when the U.S. itself does so, would be unwise.

I think it’s a good idea to at least think about the old saw about people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.

Former Republican Presidential nominee and now Senator John McCain, the committee’s chairman responded sharply.

So it’s okay for them to steal our secrets that are most important because we live in a glass house? That is astounding.

To which Clapper clarified his thoughts in the matter by saying:

I’m just saying that both nations (U.S. and China) engage in this.

Images from Shutterstock & Wikimedia.

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.