The Trojan Dragon Comes to Congress

John Tkacik, Jr. /

In their efforts to gain confidential information about Congressional deliberations on China, Chinese intelligence agencies have stuck their fingers in a hornet’s nest that will leave big welts on Congressional attitudes toward Asia’s new superpower for years to come.

Yesterday, an audibly angry Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced a resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives (H. Res. 1263) warning all members of the House of the threat of Chinese cyberpenetration of Congressional databases.

Two years ago, Chinese espionage officers hunted through the computer files of Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), an outspoken critic of Beijing’s domestic human rights behavior and its support of dictatorships and genocide overseas. At the time, Rep. Wolf’s staff was able to trace the penetrations, first to his human rights staffer, then to his chief of staff, his legislative director and his judiciary aide. Those databases contained casework files for Chinese dissidents and activists that the Congressman was helping. At the time, the FBI was able to trace the penetrations to internet protocol addresses in China, but apparently asked that the information be kept secret.

In the intervening months, however, the Congressman learned from the FBI and Congressional information systems managers that Chinese intelligence penetrations of Congressional computer databases was widespread, and that many of the cyber attacks had been made easier when members of Congress and staffers brought their BlackBerry devices and PDAs to China – once they hooked into the Chinese telecommunications networks, efficient Chinese cyberwarriors had been able to inject Trojan horse viruses directly into Washington, D.C. networks through the Blackberry or PDA automatic password interfaces.

As time went on and the Bush Administration failed to alert the public about China’s cyber threat, Rep. Wolf’s frustration grew. Yesterday, June 11, it broke into the open, as the Congressman warned that “Despite everything we read in the press, our intelligence, law enforcement, national security and diplomatic corps remain hesitant to speak out about this problem. Perhaps they are afraid that talking about this problem will reveal our vulnerability. In fact, I have been urged not to speak out about this threat.”

On the floor of the House yesterday, Congressman Wolf demanded that the administration “cease denying the scope and scale and risk of the issue,” and repeated the concerns of experts that “By not talking openly about this, they are making truly a dangerous national security problem worse …..”

Rep. Wolf then noted:

“I’m aware that the computers in the offices of several other Members of the Congress were similarly compromised, as well as a major committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee. That means the computers in the House Foreign Affairs Committee have been compromised. It is logical to assume that critical and sensitive information about U.S. foreign policy and the work of Congress to help people who are suffering around the world, was also open to view from those official computers.”

The Resolution was adopted unanimously and passed to the House Committee on Administration where it promises to move quickly to a vote.