The CIA did not pull officers from Beijing in the wake of the Chinese hack of millions of sensitive personnel records disclosed earlier this year, the nation’s top intelligence official said Monday.
Asked at a Defense One national security conference whether CIA officers were removed from Beijing, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said “No.”
He did not elaborate.
The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, reported in September that the agency had pulled officers as a precautionary move. A CIA spokesman declined to comment Monday.
Chinese government hackers last year compromised two databases housed by the Office of Personnel Management, one of which contained sensitive personal details collected during security-clearance investigations for millions of federal employees.
Intelligence officials were concerned that the Chinese could try to figure out who worked for the CIA by comparing the names of State Department employees in the database with the names of individuals working for the U.S. government in China. Those whose names did not appear in the database presumably could be undercover CIA officers.
The U.S. government has not publicly pointed the finger at Beijing for the OPM hacks. Clapper at an intelligence conference earlier this year came close, saying China was the “leading suspect” in the attacks. He added, with begrudging admiration, “You have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did.”
On Monday, he was asked again whether he knew who was behind the OPM breach. His reply: “We have a fair idea.” The line drew loud laughter.