By Mick Krever, CNN
A escalation of cyberespionage between the United States and China could be beneficial by forcing a change in actions, former U.S. counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
“I actually hope it does result in escalation and tit-for-tat, because we need this issue resolved,” he said. “And we can't go on the way it's been.”
“This first step by the United States will undoubtedly result in an escalation of this issue. And we need to do that. We need to have this issue resolved one way or the other. If the Chinese are going to keep hacking into our companies, then we're going to have to do something about it.”
Clarke, now out of government, has authored his third straight-from-the-headlines novel, “Sting of the Drone.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday accused five Chinese nationals of engaging in commercial espionage, hacking into American businesses including U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, the United Steel Workers Union, and SolarWorld.
It is doubtful America would ever get its hands on the people it has accused.
Last April, the United States and China set up a cybersecurity working group to address the issue; why the Obama Administration chose to take this step now has been the subject of some debate.
“The United States has been trying for many years to get the Chinese to stop stealing corporate secrets and giving them to Chinese companies,” Clarke said. “We've raised it at the presidential level; we've raised it at the Cabinet level; we have talks going on. But they're going nowhere.”
It was, he said, “a good idea to escalate this.”
“It's not clear how it's going to be resolved. But for the United States government, we can’t go on having our companies pay for the Chinese companies' R&D and be losing American jobs in this process.”
The United States engages in widespread espionage around the world, but draws a distinction between spying for national security and spying for the advancement of domestic business.
In an interview with Amanpour on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai challenged that argument.
“I don't know how they can make a distinction between such activities,” Ambassador Cui said. “How do they explain the attacks on Chinese companies, universities and even individuals? Is that for national defense? Or is that for other purposes?”
The Chinese ambassador may not like it, Clarke said, but a distinction does exist.
“If the Chinese embassy had spies here in Washington that went out and broke into buildings like Alcoa, broke into the safes in those buildings and stole research and development information, no one would see anything wrong with arresting those Chinese spies that were doing that.”
“Well, that's what this is, only the Chinese spies are staying back home in Shanghai and doing the spying remotely. Sure, the United States also hacked. It hacks for national security purposes.”
Click above to watch Amanpour’s full interview with Clarke, and hear what he has to say about Russia’s new gas deal with China and the ongoing debate over drones.