Beijing Hackers Steal
American Nuclear Secrets
By Simon Davis in Los Angeles
Computer hackers hired by the Chinese government have stolen highly classified information from America's nuclear weapons research laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
The electronic break-in early last year has been kept secret until now, US intelligence sources told the Washington Times. The Chinese obtained the equivalent of a stack of documents 3ft high," said one official. He added that the discovery proved the Chinese government was using advanced computer spying techniques that Beijing's military have been fine-tuning for several years.
America used techniques developed by its National Security Agency to trace the hackers to a research institute in Beijing, which is believed to have been used in the past for spying. The information that was stolen was believed to be extremely valuable to foreign government weapons programmes, according to counter-intelligence officials.
The information could help governments to save time and money on their own research programmes and could threaten US security. China is one of the most aggressive foreign powers seeking to glean data on nuclear weapons via computer from US weapons laboratories, the official said. The Chinese are known to use several forms of computer attack to gain access to the information.
News of the embarrassing security breach at the New Mexico facility came just weeks after hard drives with sensitive information were removed from the laboratory and returned six weeks later. Scientists in the X Division who deal with nuclear weapons research are currently on a paid one-week holiday because of the stress caused by the federal investigation currently going on into the matter.
A recent report to the US Congress on Chinese spying produced by the FBI and CIA said China was the most aggressive foreign power at looking for nuclear weapons information on US computer systems. The National Security Agency spokesman, Fred Lash, refused to comment on the latest infiltration. But Jim Danneskiold, a Los Alamos spokesman, said: "There is an enormous amount of Chinese activity."
Last year, Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist, was dismissed from Los Alamos for allegedly "mishandling sensitive nuclear weapons information". He was arrested after an exhaustive investigation found that China had obtained information about every US nuclear warhead, and is awaiting trial.

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