WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China-linked hackers appear to have gained access to sensitive background information submitted by U.S. intelligence and military personnel for security clearances that could potentially expose them to blackmail, the Associated Press reported on Friday.
In a report citing several U.S. officials, the news agency said the attack on the Office of Personnel Management was believed to be a separate breach of OPM records after the government's revelation last week that the records of millions of federal employees had been compromised.
It said a form authorities believed to have been accessed, Standard Form 86, required applicants to fill out deeply personal information about mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies.
The form also required the listing of contacts and relatives, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion, the report said. The form also required the applicant's Social Security number and that of their cohabitant.
Earlier on Friday, the White House said it could not confirm another AP report that as many as 14 million current and former U.S. government employees had had their personal information exposed to hackers in the OPM breach revealed last week.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the investigation continued into OPM breach. Last week, the government said records of up to 4 million people had been compromised.
The OPM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by David Storey and Tom Brown)