By Ken Dilanian
China's "predatory" campaign of intellectual property theft through cyber attacks against the United States and other Western nations has reached "an intolerable level" that is harming U.S. national security, the chairman of the House intelligence committee said Tuesday.
In the most explicit public criticisms of Chinese cyber spying by a senior American official, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the U.S. and its allies must confront Beijing, which he said is waging "a massive trade war against all of us," resulting in a slow and destructive transfer of military and technological secrets from the West to China.
Although major cyber intrusions have been attributed by outside experts to China, "that's just the tip of the iceberg," Rogers said. "There are more companies that have been hit that won't talk about it to the press for fear of provoking further Chinese attacks."
Rep Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the committee, said cyber spies have stolen "critical defense files," including details about U.S. fighter jets, missile systems and unmanned drones," although he didn't attribute those incidents to China.
Rogers' comments at a committee hearing on cyber security come at a time when General Electric is facing questions about its decision to transfer technology and production to China in a joint venture with China's state-owned avionics company.
The U.S. is the world's leader in avionics, the "brains" of aircraft, and despite GE's insistence that it will wall off technological secrets at its Chinese facility, some critics question whether that would be possible.
"Historical experience strongly suggests that leakage of technology in these kinds of circumstances is virtually impossible to prevent," wrote Clyde Prestowitz, a former Reagan administration trade official, on foreignpolicy.com.
GE's chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is chairman of the President's Commission on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, meanwhile, testified that the public doesn't understand the threat from cyber espionage in part because "this information is horribly overclassified inside the government."