Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

A Name to Know: 3PLA — China’s Version of the NSA

“The Third Department of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Staff Department” is a mouthful, but you can be sure that you’ll be hearing more of its abbreviated name: 3PLA. Spy-watchers say the agency “is central to China’s military strategy, tasked with monitoring and analyzing much of the world’s communications—including embassy cables, corporate emails and criminal networks—for foreign threats and competitive advantages,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper conducted an overview of the activities of the agency, which houses the personnel that the Justice Department indicted in May on charges that they stole U.S. corporate secrets.

“The U.S. indictments in May gave one part of 3PLA an especially high profile: Unit 61398, also known as the Second Bureau. Its operations were analyzed in a report early last year by U.S. cyber-security firm Mandiant, now a unit of FireEye Co.,” according to the Journal. “Current and former U.S. officials say the unit focuses primarily on the U.S.”

Secretary of State John Kerry is in China this week for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked yesterday during her regular news conference whether cybersecurity issues would come up as part of the event.

“Cyber continues to be an incredibly important issue to the United States and to China,” she said. “And we have a range of means of communicating on cyber issues.”

Psaki said nothing had changed, however, in terms of restarting the formal cybersecurity talks that the U.S. ended after the indictments. But she said that this week “there’ll be a great deal of time for dialogue. There are many meals involved, so I’m certain there’ll be a range of issues that will be discussed.”

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