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Hackers to Be Kept From U.S. in House Cybersecurity Bill

Computer hackers who target U.S. agencies and companies on behalf of countries such as China and Russia would be denied entry into the U.S. and have their bank accounts frozen under legislation to be unveiled today.

The measure, sponsored by U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, calls for deporting foreign nationals who are suspected of being cyberspies for other countries, said Kelsey Knight, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican. The House bill also would deport or bar U.S. entry to the hackers’ family members.

“This is putting a face to the criminals,” Knight said in an interview. “If you’re a foreign agent working on behest of a nation and participating in cybercrime, you will not be allowed a visa into the country, nor will your family.”

Rogers, the intelligence committee chairman, will introduce his bill a day before President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a summit where computer security is expected to be among issues discussed. Hacking has emerged as an irritant between the two nations, with the U.S. accusing China of waging a large-scale campaign of cyber-espionage.

A Pentagon report in May for the first time accused China’s military of penetrating U.S. computer networks to steal sensitive data. Mandiant Corp., an Alexandria, Virginia-based computer security firm, released a report in February concluding that the People’s Liberation Army in China may be behind the hacking of at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006.

China, Russia

The bill is primarily intended to stop hacking attacks backed by the governments of China, Russia and Iran, said Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, its lead Democratic sponsor.

“Those are the top three that we’re most concerned about,” Ryan said in an interview. The bill should also help Obama in negotiations with Xi, Ryan said.

“I think it’s important for him to know that we’re going to aggressively get his back while he’s in negotiations,” Ryan said. The two leaders are set to meet starting tomorrow near Palm Springs, California.

Under the House measure, Obama would be directed to develop a list of hackers working under orders from other governments, Knight said. The names would be put on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals list, a U.S. government database of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, Knight said.

None of the punishments in the bill would apply to U.S. citizens, Knight said.

Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland said in an interview that he doesn’t support the bill because some of the punishments are too severe and could have negative repercussions for the U.S. His opposition marks a rare split with Rogers. Ruppersberger is the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel.

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