FBI Director Tells ABC News Whether the US Has the Goods on China

ABC News' Pierre Thomas speaks exclusively to James Comey about alleged hacking by China - despite its denials.
11:39 | 05/19/14

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Transcript for FBI Director Tells ABC News Whether the US Has the Goods on China
This -- again thank you for your time we've known that Chinese companies have been attacking US companies for awhile. Why draw the line in the sand now this has become so insidious. Get -- conduct. Is so pervasive and now so long standing. That we thought it important to bring this tool to bear that we as criminal investigators have been tracking these intrusion cases for a long time. And put this one together as part of our effort to show we're not gonna stand for this conduct. And why it's so dangerous to the US economy what's happened. Well what's going on is I explain to a group of private citizens earlier that. There's only two kinds -- corporation's big corporations in America those who. Have been hacked by the Chinese are those who don't yet know they've been -- by the Chinese. The amount of theft that's going on is simply staggering and so it's important for us as a country -- use all of our tools to try and respond to this. Because it is sapping the life blood of a lot of these companies and it's about our ability to compete and about the ability of our people to get and keep good jobs. One the official I was talking to. Said when Chinese companies. And the Chinese Government doesn't have to put in the money in the time and the billions of dollar for research and development that gives them completely unfair playing field. I miss a story as old as humanity I suppose. -- some people think why bill and I can take. It's much faster to take something that you built and to build it myself. It's not fair and it also does great damage to our country's incentives. For people to try and develop good ideas if they're going to be stolen by somebody didn't do work why should I bother and that's a terrible place to be. Now the Chinese Government released a statement saying that this was a total fabrication this didn't happen do you have the goods. We don't bring criminal cases we don't ask grand -- to -- we don't have the evidence so. We would welcome the opportunity to offer these five Chinese military hackers their day in court. And we will be put to the burden of proof which is one of the great protections of this country. We would prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of twelve. Who would agree unanimously this conduct was done by these five guys there are trying to hard to get to. What's the practical implications of criminal charges. Well the -- a lot smaller now than it used to be the so the practical impact is if these -- want to travel out of China on vacation. They should be looking over their shoulder. But beyond that we hope it sends a message that this is conduct that civilized communities do not engage in this isn't about national security this is about theft. When you have a government engaged in this kind of activity. That's what struck me -- news the first time we've formally sent to a government we know what you're doing and we have. The specifics to prove that in this case in these cases. You were -- offering through hacking. US technology and strategies what does that say about how far the United States government is now willing to go. -- the message we hope it sends is that we as a government and especially -- is the FBI. Are going to address the entire stack of cyber threats we face the situation we're in now is everyone is -- next door neighbor to everybody else on the Internet. And the neighborhood is dangerous because there's a whole lot of people living in that neighborhood who think it's okay to break in and still your stuff. That state actors that's organized criminal groups that's individual hackers. It's stealing and it has to be addressed as stealing it's no different than if somebody broke into your house and stole something was incredibly important to you. That's what's happening to our company's that's what's happening to our individual citizens there were trying to help people who understand homes well. This has practical implications for the entire US economy is -- that serious. Sure mean that there again and the lifeblood of an American company is its ideas. The things it's going to build the way in which it builds some its strategy for selling a particular good and service. If that's taken away the business is reason for being is gone and the people work their -- Diplomatic. Issues arise when -- do a case like this. Any respect within the administration. Maybe we shouldn't go this route how difficult was -- to come to the conclusion that now it's time to us. That one of the many reasons I like my job is I'm in the law enforcement business. And so my agents put together facts hard facts and present them for prosecution in here. The Justice -- prosecutors were enthusiastic about taking that evidence -- moving forward with it. The diplomatic concerns are someone else's business I'm sure there going to be interesting conversations but they're not -- and I'm involved in. Given the scale of what the Chinese are doing and other nation states but specifically. Has this emerged -- to national security threat as well as an economic threat. I see it as an epidemic of crime. That is coming from China. Mean it's about stealing plain and simple and and to fancied up of words like national security frankly gives it gives it more -- than it's worth it is criminal behavior. We had another case the southern district. Which really shows how. Packers -- reach into someone's bedroom or home and review their financial transactions as they take place. Toppled and about the importance in that case -- know you were have been watching that very closely as well. And the black shades case is a great example of us all being next door neighbors on the Internet. And the neighborhood being dangerous because people can reach into our homes and our computers. From halfway around the world but in milliseconds because of the way the Internet works. We need we at the FBI are trying to organize a bit of a community watch organization. Pulling together. Fellow law enforcement from around the world to try and send a message this is in free. We take seriously someone keeping your front door and stole your stereo we're gonna take every bit as seriously someone reaches into your home and -- -- your identity. For steals your money. Or steals your health care information. It is stealing. In this neighborhood is going to be dangerous until we get together and do something about it. Now what's great about the black shades cases that you have eighteen countries. -- responding at the same time to lock up a whole lot of people to send that message. There's a sense among some of these criminals that if there in their pajamas halfway around the world. They are free to reach into your house and steal your stuff and nothing's gonna happen to them we've got to change that we've got it. -- give them a sense that this neighborhood is going to be aggressively patrol. And one of the scariest things known as in looking -- -- cases. You know where they can officially turn on the camera when your computer and records you video you in your own home. A lot of Americans would think about that go oh my goodness I felt that was science fiction -- is not. -- it's not science fiction mean these criminals have the ability to reach in and watch you. To record your keystrokes to take pictures of what you're looking at an -- to use your computer. To victimize your neighbors to -- harvest your computer into a zombie network. These are things they're doing all over the world and so we as the world have to shrink this world and respond to it as one which is the message of this case. -- United Nations of law enforcement is coming together to bang these people -- saying no you can't hide and this is not free. You know I've been covering -- powerful. It was a period where these cases were really hard to investigate and really hard to actually bring people justice. Have we turned the corner inches of our capacity to track. Where these attacks come from and to pursue the assailants. We've gotten much better at tracking. People on the Internet who -- engaged in criminal activity we -- with lawful authority that we go to a judge and seek authority. Once we have that authority I have the talent and the technology to find those people now. And then. Once we find them we've got to lay hands on them and impose a cost the changes behavior. People think this is some kind of joke it is no different -- -- your front door we've -- -- -- -- that way. I was struck by the New York Times article today. Word you mentioned that since taking office. Your impressions. Or feel about the terrorism rather have changed how so what what he's seen on a daily basis that -- Shake your current opinion. I've seen that we've made as a country a lot of progress against al-Qaeda central. In the area of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan they've been degraded but at the same time. These virulent project -- -- children and al-Qaeda have sprung up all over Africa and the Middle East. And I see those groups as very dangerous very talented and bent on bringing death and destruction to the homeland. And so in a sense that the threat has changed. It has shifted but remains very very serious and so it's -- top my list I wake up every morning thing. About it there's some specifics we talked about in the past Syria. A Q8. Those particular groups I know are very much in your focus. -- -- about Syria because. Syria is a special concern of ours because the civil war there is offering an opportunity for thousands. A foreign fighters to flow in. And associate with these al-Qaeda or related groups and get training in the worst parts of terrorism. And make -- relationships that's bad enough that coming. It's -- going meant that worries me most of all there will come a time when those fighters are gonna flow out. They're gonna come back to Europe into the United States and those of us remember history remember the flowing out of Afghanistan. In the 1980s by. -- the fathers of al-Qaeda you can draw a line between that and 9/11 we are not an -- out. A line to be drawn from this coming -- serious I asked for a to a future nine elevenths and how would you compare what's happening to Syria. To what happened in Afghanistan isn't worth or. Q what's your assessment. And people tell me someone once said history doesn't repeat itself but it sure does rhyme. Syria is not a repeat of Afghanistan. But in the worst ways it is easier to get to. And they're far more foreign fighters flowing into Syria and then went to Afghanistan to fight the Russians in the 1980s. They're getting similar training building similar relationships and then they're coming back for coming back to Europe they're coming back to North America. And it's something and all of us in the counterterrorism business are worried about every day. And are you currently making sure the people who. Return to US are not terrorists as well you know some of -- class but we can give us a sense of how active you are making sure. That you keep an eye on those people. I guess the most -- can -- cameras we are very active in keeping an eye on people who've been to Syria to fight. And return for the reasons I said. We worry about who they know what they learned and what they're looking to do once they return -- your reaction to those. Young girls being kidnapped. In Nigeria. And what can give us a sense of how the FBI's contributing to. The situation. My initial reaction was that -- father of four girls reaction you might expect and understand it's -- pain and shock. I think all I can say about the need assistance -- for Nigerians as we've offered them some technical resources. And some advisors from the FBI that we've sent over. Are you optimistic that they can be found it was a -- let it to really decide. It's it's a very tough part of the world very remote part of the world so too early to say. -- thank you sir great thanks --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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