U.S. military officials are pushing back against a claim that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden made last week about China stealing top-secret data on a pricey warplane program.
Snowden, a former contractor who fled the United States after exposing NSA spy secrets, shared documents with German magazine Der Spiegel that appear to show that China stole sensitive data about the warplane, including engine schematics and radar design.
The magazine made public a report on China’s intelligence theft earlier this month.
But on Tuesday, the F-35 fighter jet program office told Reuters that the documents released by Der Spiegel only show non-classified data about the jet.
“Classified F-35 information is protected and remains secure,” the program office told Reuters in a statement.
In the statement, Pentagon officials said they continue to take all potential cyberattacks seriously, and that the incident in question was not expected to negatively impact the program, Reuters reported.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Monday denied China stole the jet data, according to The New York Times. The “complexity” of the alleged cyberattacks “means that it is extremely difficult to identify the source,” Mr. Lei said.
“I wonder if they can produce evidence to prop up such accusation and groundless attack,” he said.
Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren declined on Tuesday to discuss whether the Chinese had been able to peek at U.S. military technology secrets.
“We never talk about cyber-intrusions and we don’t comment on leaked information,” he said.
The report on China’s alleged cybertheft is the latest information leak to come from Mr. Snowden, who has sought asylum in various countries since fleeing the United States in 2013.