Chinese Hackers Stole Plans for America's New Joint Strike Fighter Plane, Says Investigations Subcommittee Chair

Christopher Goins and Pete Winn | April 25, 2012 | 4:23pm EDT
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Joint Strike Fighter. (AP photo)

( – Intruders from China hacked into computers and stole the blueprints for America’s new joint strike fighter planes, the F-35 and F-22,  according to the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) made the statement during a Tuesday hearing on cyber security.

“I've been dealing with this issue for a long time,” McCaul said. “But I think it's important that the American people, who most of them don't understand this issue, have a better idea of what--what is at risk. You know when I look at the theft of intellectual property to the tune of $1 trillion, that's a serious economic issue for the United States.

"When I look at countries like China, who have stolen our Joint Strike Fighters, F-35 and F-22's, stolen those blueprints so they can manufacture those planes and then guard against those planes,” he said.

China has created citizen hacker groups engaged in cyber espionage, established cyber war military units and laced the U.S. infrastructure with logic bombs, he said.

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It is not the only government to do so, he added.

“(M)ake no mistake, America' is under attack by digital bombs,” McCaul said. “There are several things the American public should understand about these attacks. They are real, stealth and persistent and can devastate our nation.

“They occur at the speed of light. They are global and could come from anywhere on the earth. They penetrate traditional defenses,” he continued.

“So who is conducting these attacks and why? An October of 2011 report to Congress on foreign economic collection and industrial espionage states it is part of China and Russia's national policy to identify and steal sensitive technology, which they need for their development,” McCaul said.

McCaul said Russia has been almost as active as China in trying to steal U.S. defense secrets.

“When you look at China and Russia who have hacked into every federal agency in the federal government including the Pentagon,” McCaul said. “You know we talk about the analogy agents of a foreign power call it paper files walking out with classified or non-classified information, it would be all over the papers. But yet in the virtual world, that's happening. And no one seems to know or really pay attention to it. And then the final piece, you know there's the espionage, the stealing of military secrets, satellite technology, rocket technology out of NASA, it's prevalent. It's everywhere.”

The Texas Republican, a former federal prosecutor, re-iterated his comments Wednesday on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program.

Larry Wortzel, a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a March 28, hearing that a report released by the commission last month had concluded that the People’s Liberation Army of China has made cyber attacks a “cornerstone” of its operations.

“At the same time, the report concludes, during peacetime, computer network exploitation has likely become a cornerstone of PLA and civilian intelligence collection operations supporting national military and civilian strategic goals," Wortzel said.

“The Commission report tells us that China's computer network exploitation activities to support espionage opened rich veins of information that was previously inaccessible or could only be mined in small amounts with controlled human intelligence operations,” Wortzel said.

The commission's 2009 Annual Report to Congress, citing a Wall Street Journal article, discussed "intruders, probably operating from China, that exfiltrated 'several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems' of the F-35 Lightning II," one of the most advanced fighter planes under development.

In addition, the report noted, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and British Aerospace and Engineering reportedly all have experienced penetrations from hackers based in China in the past three years.

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