“This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” said Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official. “That makes it very hard for any of those people to function as an intelligence officer. The database also tells the Chinese an enormous amount of information about almost everyone with a security clearance. That’s a gold mine. It helps you approach and recruit spies.”
The Office of Personnel Management, which was the target of the hack, did not respond to requests for comment. OPM spokesman Samuel Schumach and Jackie Koszczuk, the director of communications, have consistently said there was no evidence that security clearance information had been compromised.
The White House statement said the hack into the security clearance database was separate from the breach of federal personnel data announced last week — a breach that is itself appearing far worse than first believed. It could not be learned whether the security database breach happened when an OPM contractor was hacked in 2013, an attack that was discovered last year. Members of Congress received classified briefings about that breach in September, but there was no public mention of security clearance information being exposed.
Nearly all of the millions of security clearance holders, including some CIA, National Security Agency and military special operations personnel, are potentially exposed in the security clearance breach, the officials said. More than 4 million people had been investigated for a security clearance as of October 2014, according to government records.
The United States government is having a very tough week when it comes to the cyber security moral high ground. How can US bilateral and multilateral partners take the US seriously on proper cyber security hygiene when the US government was caught with its pants so far down its legs they might as well have been walking around New York City completely nude?