(WASHINGTON) — The FBI is investigating claims made by an Indian computer-hacking group that India’s intelligence services intercepted the communications of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
The documents, posted on the Internet about a month ago and alleged to be from the Indian government’s Directorate General of Military Intelligence, include about 10 emails from the congressionally mandated commission from September and October 2011. The commission reports to Congress annually on national security, trade and economic issue with China.
The commission released their annual report to Congress in November 2011 this year. One federal law enforcement official indicated that the Indian government may have been snooping for early details on the assessments of the commission if the documents are genuine.
While the emails do appear to be genuine, the document has not been authenticated. Emails and phone calls made to the Indian embassy in Washington were not returned on Wednesday.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation.
The documents include an email received by Michael Danis, the commission’s executive director, concerning General Electric’s business and joint ventures in China.
“As discussed yesterday, defense and aviation officials have identified that China’s two critical technology gaps in the aerospace industry are avionics and engine technology. This would appear to indicate that GE is helping them on both counts,” the email reads.
“Look at the Taiwan hearing, yesterday both the Chair and Ranking were adamant about the F-16c/d sale. I think we finally need/should support the sale,” an Oct. 4, 2011 email allegedly sent from commission member Daniel Blumenthal to Denis notes about the possible sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan.
“We are aware of these reports and have contacted the relevant authorities. We are unable to make further comments at this time,” Jonathan Weston, a spokesman for the commission, wrote in an email.
The documents posted on the Internet were allegedly obtained by a group called the Lords of Dharamraja, which has also made claims that they compromised the source code on Symantec’s popular Norton antivirus software.
The document that is allegedly from the Indian intelligence service claims that the emails were obtained by using backdoors from mobile device manufacturers Apple, Research in Motion and Nokia. In the United States the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act mandates that the FBI and police must have “backdoor” access to phone and internet communications with a lawful court order. The Bureau has been pushing for expanded surveillance powers with new technology such as Skype and Twitter in what they have termed their “Going Dark” program.
The inquiry into the data breach at the commission follows the disclosure last month that China had infiltrated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce computer system targeting the work by the Chamber’s Asia policy analysts.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ashley Fantz, AnneClaire Stapleton and Ed Payne, CNN Newswire
Angela Dewan, CNN