Archive for the ‘counterintelligence’ Category

“Sleeper Spy”: Chinese Man in U.S. Two Decades Before Activation

April 3, 2008

By Joby Warrick and Carrie Johnson 
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page A01

Prosecutors called Chi Mak the “perfect sleeper agent,” though he hardly looked the part. For two decades, the bespectacled Chinese-born engineer lived quietly with his wife in a Los Angeles suburb, buying a house and holding a steady job with a U.S. defense contractor, which rewarded him with promotions and a security clearance. Colleagues remembered him as a hard worker who often took paperwork home at night.
Chi Mak was sentenced to 241/2 years to send a message to China. 

Chi Mak was sentenced to 24 1/2 years to send a message to China. (Sketch By Bill Robles For The Associated Press)

Eventually, Mak’s job gave him access to sensitive plans for Navy ships, submarines and weapons. These he secretly copied and sent via courier to China — fulfilling a mission that U.S. officials say he had been planning since the 1970s.

Mak was sentenced last week to 24 1/2 years in prison by a federal judge who described the lengthy term as a warning to China not to “send agents here to steal America’s military secrets.” But it may already be too late: According to U.S. intelligence and Justice Department officials, the Mak case represents only a small facet of an intelligence-gathering operation that has long been in place and is growing in size and sophistication.

The Chinese government, in an enterprise that one senior official likened to an “intellectual vacuum cleaner,” has deployed a diverse network of professional spies, students, scientists and others to systematically collect U.S. know-how, the officials said. Some are trained in modern electronic techniques for snooping on wireless computer transactions. Others, such as Mak, are technical experts who have been in place for years and have blended into their communities.

“Chi Mak acknowledged that he had been placed in the United States more than 20 years earlier, in order to burrow into the defense-industrial establishment to steal secrets,” Joel Brenner, the head of counterintelligence for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in an interview. “It speaks of deep patience,” he said, and is part of a pattern.

Other recent prosecutions illustrate the scale of the problem. Mak, whose sentence capped an 18-month criminal probe, was the second U.S. citizen in the past two weeks to stand before a federal judge after being found guilty on espionage-related charges.

On Monday, former Defense Department analyst Gregg W. Bergersen pleaded guilty in Alexandria to charges that he gave classified information on U.S. weapons sales….

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Report: China spies threaten U.S. technology

November 15, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chinese spying in America represents the greatest threat to U.S. technology, according to a congressional advisory panel report Thursday that recommended lawmakers consider financing counterintelligence efforts meant to stop China from stealing U.S. manufacturing expertise.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also said in its annual report to Congress that small- and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers, which represent more than half the manufacturing jobs in America, “face the full brunt of China’s unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation and illegal subsidies for Chinese exports.”

China’s economic policies create a trade relationship that is “severely out of balance” in China’s favor, said the commission, which Congress set up in 2000 to investigate and report on U.S.-China issues.

Carolyn Bartholomew, the commission’s chairwoman, told reporters that “China’s interest in moving toward a free market economy is not just stalling but is actually now reversing course.”

China denied any spying activities, stressing the importance of healthy economic ties with the U.S. “China never does anything undermining the interests of other countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular briefing Thursday in Beijing. “China and the U.S. have a fundamental common interest in promoting sound and rapid development.”

The report comes about a year before U.S. presidential and congressional elections, and candidates have been critical of what they see as China’s failure to live up to its responsibilities as an emerging superpower. China often is singled out for its flood of goods into the United States; for building a massive, secretive military; for abusing its citizens’ rights, and for befriending rogue nations to secure sources of energy.

U.S. officials also recognize that the United States needs China, a veto-holding member of the U.N. Security Council, to secure punishment for Iran’s nuclear program and to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

The commission’s Democratic and Republican appointees have begun meeting with congressional staff and lawmakers to discuss the report’s 42 recommendations.

In the report, the commission said China’s spies allow Chinese companies to get new technology “without the necessity of investing time or money to perform research.” Chinese espionage was said to be straining U.S. counterintelligence agencies and helping China’s military modernization.

While the report praised China for some economic progress this year, improvements were undertaken “with great hesitancy and, even then, only with the prodding of other nations and the World Trade Organization.”

China, it said, “maintains a preference for authoritarian controls over its economy” and has done too little to police widespread copyright piracy of foreign goods sold in China.

The commission also faulted China for keeping the value of its currency artificially low against the dollar. American manufacturers long have complained that Beijing’s low currency makes Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and American products more expensive in China.

China’s dependence on coal, lack of energy efficiency and poor enforcement of environmental regulations, the report said, “are creating devastating environmental effects that extend throughout the region and beyond to the United States.”

The commission said tensions between Taiwan and China have created an “emotionally charged standoff that risks armed conflict if not carefully managed by both sides. Such a conflict could involve the United States.”

The United States has hinted it would go to war to protect Taiwan if nuclear-armed China were to attack. China claims Taiwan as its own and vows to attack any declaration of independence by the island’s leaders.

The report also described what it said was China’s tight control over information distribution, which allows Beijing “to manage and manipulate the perceptions of the Chinese people, often promoting nationalism and xenophobia.”

Beijing, the report said, uses its control of the media to influence its perception in the United States; that could endanger U.S. citizens if reports on food and product safety and disease outbreaks are manipulated.