Three congressmen in positions of leadership sent a letter to the president today requesting a classified briefing on China’s cyber activity directed towards the United States and recommending sanctions against hackers.

“To send a clear message to the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” wrote Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., “we also encourage you to consider utilizing your ability under existing authorities to sanction PRC-linked hackers.”

The Republican representatives, the ranking members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (McCaul), Energy and Commerce Committee (Walden), and Financial Services Committee (McHenry), pointed toward the May announcement from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) about China-affiliated cyber actors targeting COVID-19 research organizations.

“These actions must have consequences,” the letter said. “If we do not utilize our sanctions strategically in response to bad acts, our sanctions regime loses its deterrent effect, and we will only see these cyberattacks from the PRC further escalate.”

McCaul has introduced the Cyber Diplomacy Act, a bill he has sponsored a few times over the years, to strengthen the Department of State’s cyber office. Former Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the current White House chief of staff, co-sponsored the most two recent iterations of the bill. The bill has not had any activity this calendar year.

The three congressmen requested a classified briefing with the Departments of Treasury and State, along with any additional agency deemed appropriate by the president, in order to learn the scope, number, and success rate of the attacks.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.