WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced new efforts Wednesday to fight the growing theft of American trade secrets, a broad but relatively restrained response to a rapidly emerging global problem that was brought into sharp focus this week by fresh evidence linking cyberstealing to China's military.
Mentioning China but not specifically targeting that country, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the plan, which includes a new diplomatic push to discourage intellectual property theft abroad along with better coordination at home to help companies protect themselves.
The administration says indications are that economic espionage is increasing, not only through electronic intrusion over the Internet but also through the recruitment of former employees of U.S. companies with knowledge of inside trade information.
"Particularly in this time of economic recovery, this work is more important than it ever has been before," Holder said at the White House announcement of the administration's strategy.
The administration report didn't threaten any specific consequences for theft of trade secrets. It included five actions to protect American innovation:
• Applying diplomatic pressure by senior officials to foreign leaders to discourage theft.
• Promoting best practices to help industries protect against theft.
• Enhancing U.S. law enforcement operations to increase investigations and prosecutions.
• Reviewing U.S. laws to determine if they need to be strengthened to protect against theft.
• Beginning a public awareness campaign.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order last week aimed at helping protect the computer networks of American industries from cyberattacks. He has also prodded Congress during his State of the Union address to go further.
America's enemies are "seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems," he said. "We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy."