The Complex

U.S., Nigeria Agree to Share Intelligence to Find Schoolgirls

Washington is sharing more intelligence with the Nigerian government as American manned and unmanned aircraft circle the skies there in search of the more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls.

The Pentagon said that it would provide intelligence analysis to the Nigerian government but would not provide the "raw data" it collects from the manned MC-12 Liberty planes and the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk drones the United States has provided to conduct missions to find the girls.

In an effort to give the Nigerians "useful intelligence" they can act upon quickly, the United States decided to provide the data in this way rather than just hand over larger volumes of information, said Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman at the Pentagon. Such raw data could come in the form of unfiltered satellite imagery, for example. Instead, the United States might feed the Nigerian government information based on an image it collected, say, of the girls being hidden in a rural area rather than share the image with the Nigerians directly. The agreement is designed to give the Nigerians the information they need as fast as possible, but also to protect sensitive intelligence-gathering methods used by the United States, defense officials have said.

The agreement pertains only to intelligence collection specifically relating to the rescue of the girls, Caggins said.

A crisis has consumed the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan since the kidnapping of the 276 schoolgirls in a remote part of northern Nigeria on April 14 by the militant Boko Haram group. Some of the girls have escaped their captors, but most remain in the control of the armed group, whose leader has threatened to sell them into sexual slavery.

Jonathan finally agreed to U.S. assistance, ultimately to include both manned and unmanned aircraft surveillance and a group of U.S. government personnel, earlier this month.

The United States has been hesitant on intelligence-sharing for other reasons. Fearing the Nigerian government could use raw data to crack down on its own people, the United States had been cautious about what it has provided.

"Their approach is very, very heavy-handed," a former Defense Department official told Foreign Policy last week. "They round up everybody, and they are very imprecise operations."

The Nigerian government has reasonably good "human intelligence," meaning that which comes from its own personnel, but it lacks sophisticated technological capabilities. Short of American military personnel conducting operational missions to find the girls, good intelligence is the primary need for the Nigerian government right now, officials said.

On Sunday, a bomb blast in the northern city of Kano killed four people. Boko Haram has targeted many Christians in the region, though it is not clear if the attack was staged by the group.

Photo by Alain Jocard/AFP

The Complex

U.S. Indicts Chinese Officials for Cyber-Spying

In an unprecedented move that's likely to heighten economic and political tensions between the United States and China, the Department of Justice is filing criminal charges against five Chinese military officials for stealing trade secrets and other private information from five large American companies and a labor union, according to U.S. officials and a federal indictment. It's the first criminal indictment against state actors for cyber-spying against the United States.

The alleged activities involve a years-long campaign by the Chinese military and its proxies to hack into the computer systems of American companies, trade associations, unions, and law firms and steal confidential information, including business plans, product designs, and private communications. In the current case, the Chinese hackers gave such information from the victim companies to Chinese state-owned companies, giving them an unfair advantage over their American competitors, Justice Department officials said in a press conference on Monday, May 19.

Cyber-spying has been the subject of a long-simmering dispute between Beijing and Washington. But the criminal indictment -- the first of its kind against Chinese military or government officials -- would take the matter to a new level and signals that Barack Obama's administration has decided its strategy of publicly shaming China into halting its cyber-espionage isn't working.

The Chinese hackers are accused of hacking into the computers of Westinghouse Electric, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel, the United Steelworkers union, and SolarWorld, Attorney General Eric Holder announced. The companies are among the biggest manufacturing companies in the United States, and United Steelworkers is the largest steel labor union. The Chinese hackers stole pricing information and equipment designs in order to benefit Chinese state-owned industries, the Justice Department alleges.

The hackers are connected to a unit allegedly run by the People's Liberation Army that was identified in a public report last year by the computer security firm Mandiant. Known as Unit 61398, it's believed to be responsible for a broad campaign of spying against American organizations, not just the six mentioned in the indictment. The U.S. government was aware of the report before it was published and contributed some information to it, according to individuals who are familiar with the report.

The Chinese hackers also stole attorney-client communications and cost and productions analysis that gave the Chinese hackers an insight into the companies at a "critical time," including when they were conducting negotiations to do business in China, said David Hickton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the charges were filed. "This 21st-century burglary has to stop," Hickton said, adding that the cyber-spying had "led directly to the loss of jobs" in the United States.

President Obama has privately broached the subject of China's cyber-spying in private meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. And last year, Obama's then national security advisor, Tom Donilon, rebuked China in a speech for cyber-spying, which he called "a growing challenge to our economic relationship with China" and a "key point of concern and discussion with China at all levels of our governments." That was the highest-level public criticism of the Chinese actions to date.

China's cyber-espionage is also of deep concern to the Pentagon, which fears Beijing is focused both on stealing plans for advanced armaments to build its own versions and on using that know-how to develop ways of countering high-tech American aircraft, drones, and other battlefield armaments. The Defense Department's annual assessment of Chinese military strength, which is expected to show an ongoing spike in China's cyber-capabilities, is set to be released.

Officials promised more indictments against foreign cyberspies. "This is the new normal. This is what you're going to see on a recurring basis," said Robert Anderson, a top FBI cybersecurity official.

"We hope that the conduct will stop by bringing criminal actions," said John Carlin, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's National Security Division. But it was unclear whether the Chinese hackers would ever see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.

Chinese officials have consistently denied in public that their government engages in economic cyber-espionage against the United States. Officials strongly criticized the Mandiant report on Unit 61398 and called it inaccurate.

This story has been updated.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images