WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is preparing to announce first-of-its-kind criminal charges Monday against Chinese military officials in an international cyber-espionage case, a government official said.
Attorney General Eric Holder and other federal law enforcement officials were expected to reveal the new indictments later Monday, the official told The Associated Press.
The indictments will accuse individuals of participating in cyber-espionage on behalf of a foreign government, said the official, who revealed this information only on grounds of anonymity because this person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the case in advance of the official announcement.
The official described the prosecution as unprecedented.
The official said Chinese government officials are being charged in the United States with hacking into private-sector companies to gain trade secrets, adding that Holder and other top-level law enforcement officials were poised to announce charges that include economic espionage and trade-secret theft.
The Chinese to be named, the official said, are current members of Beijing's military establishment. The U.S. official did not identify the companies or industries with which they were engaged.
John Carlin, recently installed as head of the Justice's National Security Division, earlier this year cited prosecution of state-sponsored cyber-threats as a key goal for the Obama administration.
U.S. officials have accused China's army and China-based hackers of launching attacks on American industrial and military targets, often to steal secrets or intellectual property. China has said that it faces a major threat from hackers, and the country's military is believed to be among the biggest targets of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command.
Last September, President Barack Obama discussed cybersecurity issues on the sidelines of a summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Chinese President Xi Jinping.