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‘China is the single greatest counterintelligence threat we face. Period’: FBI Director Wray

FBI director Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray.
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“I think that the Chinese counterintelligence threat, especially on the economic espionage side, is the single greatest counterintelligence threat we face. Period,” says FBI Director Christopher Wray.

According to the FBI’s Twitter account, “Yesterday, #FBI Director Wray joined Dr. Richard Haass, president of the @CFR_org, for a conversation @paleycenter covering everything from recruiting to violent crime, and from election interference to the counterintelligence threat posed by the government of China.”

China has been a hot topic among lawmakers these past few weeks with reports of intellectual property theft, hearings in the Senate, and claims that China is building a massive database on the vulnerabilities of hundreds of millions of Americans.

When Director Wray was quoted as saying yesterday, “I think that the Chinese counterintelligence threat, especially on the economic espionage side, is the single greatest counterintelligence threat we face. Period,” he added, “I say that as someone who is not particularly prone to hyperbole.”

The FBI director also added, “We welcome competition, all for it. We welcome foreign visitors, all for them. We welcome research exchange, all for it. But what we are not going to tolerate is rampant intellectual property theft & cyber intrusions & economic espionage.”

Earlier this month the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism held a hearing on “How Corporations and Big Tech Leave Our Data Exposed to Criminals, China, and Other Bad Actors” where the issue of China being a huge national security threat was front and center.

In his testimony, William Carter, Deputy Director and Fellow at Center for Strategic and International Studies, testified:

  • Chinese government hackers have engaged in a prolonged campaign in recent years to build a massive database on American citizens for intelligence and counter-intelligence purposes.
  • By exfiltrating data from the US Government (USG) Office of Personnel Management (OPM), health insurers (e.g. Anthem), airlines (e.g. United) and hotel chains (e.g. Marriott), among others, China’s intelligence services have access to an incredibly rich database on the behavior, preferences, and vulnerabilities of hundreds of millions of Americans.
  • They also gain a detailed understanding of their relationships to USG employees with access to sensitive and classified information. This has significant implications for US national security.
  • Chinese agents could threaten to expose an illicit affair or pay for the medical treatment of a family member of a USG employee in exchange for sensitive intelligence, or use the travel and financial habits of American citizens to identify American intelligence officers.

‘China is building database on vulnerabilities of hundreds of millions of Americans’

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co