In a move that will not sit well with Beijing, William Barr’s Justice Department on Monday charged four PLA members in the 2017 Equifax breach that impacted some 140 million people.
The 76-day-long digital siege allowed hackers to access Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, addresses and other personal information.
“I’m here to announce the indictment of — sighs — Chinese military hackers”, Barr began, at a press conference.
“This was one of the largest data breaches in history”, Barr said, adding that “the scale of the theft was staggering”.
He went on to state the obvious, which is that this was a really – really – unfortunate episode for Equifax, and constituted a comically egregious intrusion into the privacy of American citizens by a foreign state actor.
“For years we have witnessed China’s voracious appetite for the personal data of Americans”, Barr went on to declare, in his trademark deadpan cadence, and without even a hint of irony to account for the fact that his boss was allegedly involved in Russian cyber intrusions aimed at undermining America’s democratic processes. “This data has economic value, and these thefts can feed China’s development of artificial intelligence tools as well as the creation of intelligence targeting packages”.
Obviously, there is almost no chance that the four PLA operatives charged will be apprehended. This is, basically, a diplomatic broadside aimed at putting China “on notice”, and it should be considered in conjunction with the myriad other measures the Trump administration has taken to target malfeasance by the Chinese, including the October blacklisting of surveillance giant Hikvision (along with more than two-dozen other Chinese public security bureaus and companies), the ban on Huawei and various diplomatic pressure campaigns aimed at decrying China’s human right record and undermining Beijing’s global tech ambitions.
But before anyone gets the idea that Barr is too distracted with real threats to America to focus on what matters to Trump, rest assured he’s still very much focused on presiding over a global effort to dig up proof to support the president’s hodgepodge of 2016 election conspiracy theories. That investigation is reportedly a criminal probe now.
Oh, and Barr made clear at Monday’s press conference that he hasn’t forgotten what’s really important: Working with Rudy Giuliani to advance Trump’s interests in Ukraine:
“We had established an intake process in the field so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the department including anything Mr. Giuliani might provide”, he told reporters.