McCain letter to Ma hacked by Chinese in 2008

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

Sat, Jun 08, 2013 - Page 1

A personal letter from US Senator John McCain to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008 when McCain was seeking the Republican presidential nomination was stolen before it was sent as part of a massive cyberespionage operation backed by the Chinese government, NBC News reported on Thursday.

In the letter dated July 25, 2008, which was drafted on campaign computers, McCain pledged his support for the US-Taiwan relationship and Ma’s efforts to modernize his country’s military, according to the report.

However, before the letter had even been delivered, a top McCain foreign policy adviser received a telephone call from a senior Chinese diplomat in Washington complaining about the correspondence, the report said.

“He was putting me on notice that they knew this was going on,” Randall Schriver, a former deputy assistant secretary of state who was serving as a top McCain adviser on Asian policy, told NBC News. “It certainly struck me as odd that they would be so well-informed.”

The TV network said the cyberespionage operation against the 2008 presidential campaigns of McCain and US President Barack Obama was traced to hacking units backed by Beijing.

The hacking was targeted at internal data from both campaigns, including internal position papers and private e-mails of key advisers in both camps, and was first detected by the FBI in the summer of 2008, it said.

“Based on everything I know, this was a case of political cyberespionage by the Chinese government against the two American political parties,” former US navy admiral Dennis Blair, who served as Obama’s director of national intelligence in 2009 and 2010, told the TV network.