May 19, 2014 1:32PM GMT
The Justice Department has filed criminal charges against members of the Chinese military, accusing them of conducting economic cyber-espionage against the United States, officials said.
Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to make the announcement at a news conference Monday. It is the first time the United States is taking legal action against a foreign country over cyber attacks.
“They used military and intelligence facilities to commit cyber espionage against US companies,” an official familiar with the case told NBC News.
The indictment follows vows by senior US officials to hold other nations accountable for stealing trade data from American industry.
Washington accuses the Chinese government and military of conducting computer-based attacks against the US, including efforts to steal information from federal agencies.
A year ago, several leading US newspapers, including TheNew York Times and The Wall Street Journal, reported that hackers traced to China penetrated their newsroom computer systems.
Beijing says the US government is hypocritical for accusing the Chinese government of cyber attacks, while itself being— as intelligence leaks have revealed—the most active perpetrator of cyber espionage against foreign countries, especially against China.
Documents revealed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden show the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on former Chinese president Hu Jintao, the Chinese Trade Ministry as well as multiple Chinese banks and telecommunications companies.
A major target of the NSA, according to the documents, has been Huawei, the world’s second largest network equipment supplier.