The heads of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance sat down for a joint interview for the first time to discuss the monumental threats posed to the West by communist China.
CBS News’s “60 Minutes” broadcast the discussion on Sunday after host Scott Pelley met with the five in Palo Alto, California, where they emphasized that Silicon Valley was one of China’s top targets for hacking and influence operations.
The five intelligence chiefs include the United States’ Christopher Wray, Director of the FBI; Australia’s Mike Burgess, Director-General of Security; Canada’s David Vigneault; Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; the United Kingdom’s Ken McCallum, Director General of MI5; and New Zealand’s Andrew Hampton, Director-General and Chief Executive of the Government Communication Security Bureau.
“The People’s Republic of China represents the defining threat of this generation this era,” said Wray. “There is no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to our ideas, our innovation, our economic security, and ultimately our national security. We have seen efforts by the Chinese government, directly or indirectly, trying to steal intellectual property, trade secrets, personal data — all across the country. We’re talking everything from Fortune 100 companies, all to smaller startups. We’re talking about agriculture, biotech, health care, robotics, aviation, academic research. We probably have somewhere in the order of 2,000 active investigations that are just related to the Chinese government’s effort to steal information.”
Burgess acknowledged that, to an extent, all countries spy, although it’s mainly done so that countries can be “covertly informed” about what their adversaries are doing.
“But the behavior we’re talking about here goes well beyond traditional espionage,” Burgess said. “This scale of the theft is unprecedented in human history. And that’s why we’re calling it out.”
The five chiefs in the last week held 15 meetings with top leaders and executives in Silicon Valley and at Stanford University, warning them about the threats the Chinese pose to the national security of the U.S. and its partners.
“This is not just about government secrets or military secrets. It’s not even just about critical infrastructure,” McCallum said. “It’s about academic research in our universities. It’s about promising startup companies. People, in short, who probably don’t think national security is about them.”
The Chinese target civilians working in the private sector through various traditional means for either hacking or influence operations.
McCallum is director general of MI5, the U.K.’s FBI.
“You have the biggest hacking program in the world by far, bigger than ever other major nation combined,” Wray said of what China is currently doing. “Stolen more of our personal and corporate data than every nation, big or small, combined.”
Wray warned that the threat was more serious than people realized and has “flesh and blood, kitchen-table consequences.”
He referenced an American wind turbine company from which the Chinese stole intellectual property, costing the company its competitive advantage and resulting in hundreds of people losing their jobs.
Intelligence leaders from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand are issuing a stark warning about China’s corporate espionage that targets the country’s trade secrets. https://t.co/tEhOlckvkb pic.twitter.com/TDcioJswjn
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) October 22, 2023