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- As Delivered - 


WASHINGTON, DC— Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at a Committee hearing on defining cyber war, and U.S. foreign policy and deterrence implications:


“Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Salmon. And to our witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  We badly need your expertise, because our focus today is a new frontier when it comes to enhancing American security.  And I agree with everything that my colleague just said.


“For years, cyberattacks from overseas have posed a growing threat to the United States.  Cybercrimes, such as the breach of the credit card systems at Target stores by Russian hackers in 2013, have put millions of American consumers at risk.  Cyber espionage by foreign governments—the recent attack on the Office of Personnel Management, for example—threatens to expose national security information and violates the privacy of many, many American citizens.


“Today, this Committee is focusing on ‘cyber war.’  That’s a relatively new term, and we still don’t have a consensus about what it generally means.  Exactly means.  Generally speaking, ‘cyber war’ is understood as something different from the attacks that the United States has already experienced.


“So today, I hope we can provide a little clarity on what we mean by ‘cyber war.’  When does an act of espionage or vandalism cross the line and become an act of war?  What would it take for a cyberattack to violate prohibitions against the use of force under the laws of armed conflict?  And regardless of the terminology we use, what should we be doing to protect the security of the United States and our citizens?


“I think it’s urgent that we move quickly to address this challenge, because it’s unlike any threat we’ve seen in the past.  In recent history, the power of our military and safety of our shores have kept the violence of conventional warfare at a distance from most Americans. 


“But technology has made the world smaller and more interconnected—for better and for worse.  A conventional war today could easily be accomplished by cyberattacks on critical infrastructure here at home.  Our power grid, air traffic control systems, water treatment facilities, or freight infrastructure could all be targeted.


“Our private sector is also a likely target.  The governments of China, Russia, Iran, and other nations understand the value of American business secrets and intellectual property.  That’s why the Justice Department indicted five members of the Chinese military for conspiring to steal American trade secrets from the metal and energy sectors and pass them along to Chinese businesses.


“I hope our witnesses can provide some insight about the best ways to shore up our defenses against these threats.


“And as we guard against this danger at home, I think America has a role to play around the world: helping to establish standards for this cyber activity, bringing governments together to prevent and put a stop to cyber conflict.  We led the way when it came to conventional conflict.  We can lead the way again.


“In fact, we’ve already taken positive steps.  In 2011, the Obama Administration released an International Strategy for Cyberspace calling for stronger diplomacy and private-public partnership to deal with this issue. 


“A year later, we pushed to classify cyber activities causing death, injury, or significant destruction as a ‘use of force’ under international law.  We worked with Russia and China through the UN to limit the threat of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure.


“And we took another big step last week.  Before Chinese President Xi visited the United States, several members of this Committee wrote to President Obama singling out the Chinese government’s cyber-theft of intellectual property as a major concern. 


“So I was very pleased that on Friday, the Administration announced a huge win for U.S. companies.  President Obama secured a commitment from the Chinese government to stop engaging in state-sponsored cyber theft of ‘intellectual property, including trade secrets and confidential business information.’


“What’s more, the Chinese agreed to work with us to prosecute cyber criminals targeting American assets.  This is a significant achievement.  But, of course, we need to make sure that China holds up its end of the deal.  Talk is cheap.  We have to make sure they produce and we have to produce by being tough.

“Mr. Chairman, let me just add, even though it’s off-topic.  Last week, in my opinion we achieved another landmark in U.S.-China cooperation on another critical threat—climate change.  After years of pressure from the U.S. at very high levels, the Chinese will start a cap-and-trade system to curb carbon emissions in their country.  I believe it’s a very important step.


“Let me close by saying that while we’ve taken steps at home and shown leadership around the world, we still have a long way to go just to understand the nature and threat of cyber war—let alone what’s necessary to contain this threat and protect our interests.  So again, let me thank our witnesses, and I look forward to a good discussion and look forward to hearing their expertise  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.“