Archive for the ‘Espionage’ Category

China has accelerated computer espionage

November 20, 2008

China has accelerated computer espionage attacks on the U.S. government, defense contractors and American businesses, a congressional advisory panel said Thursday.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also said in its annual report to lawmakers that aggressive Chinese space programs are allowing Beijing to more effectively target U.S. military forces.

“China is stealing vast amounts of sensitive information from U.S. computer networks,” said Larry Wortzel, chairman of the commission set up by Congress in 2000 to advise, investigate and report on U.S.-China issues.

The commission of six Democrats and six Republicans said in the unanimously approved report that China’s massive military modernization and its “impressive but disturbing” space and computer warfare capabilities “suggest China is intent on expanding its sphere of control even at the expense of its Asian neighbors and the United States.”

By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer

The commission recommended that lawmakers provide money for U.S. government programs that would monitor and protect computer networks.

Messages left with the Chinese Embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.

But officials in Beijing have responded to past reports of this kind by saying that China does not try to undermine other countries’ interests and seeks strong ties with the United States.

The report comes two months before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. The Democratic Obama administration probably will continue the Republican Bush administration‘s efforts to work with and encourage China, a veto-holding member of the U.N. Security Council that the United States needs in nuclear confrontations with Iran and North Korea.

During the campaign for president, then-candidate Obama said that “China is rising, and it’s not going away,” adding that Beijing is “neither our enemy nor our friend; they’re competitors.”

In the commission’s report, military strategist Wang Huacheng is quoted as calling U.S. dependence on space assets and information technology its “soft ribs.”

China’s space program is “steadily increasing the vulnerability of U.S. assets,” the report said. For instance, improvements in satellite imagery allow China to locate U.S. carrier battle groups more accurately, faster and from farther away.

People’s Liberation Army officer and author Cai Fengzhen is quoted as saying that the “area above ground, airspace and outer space are inseparable and integrated. They are the strategic commanding height of modern informationalized warfare.”

“If this becomes Chinese policy,” the report said, “it could set the stage for conflict with the United States and other nations that expect the right of passage for their spacecraft.”

The commission also criticized China for violating commitments to avoid trade-distorting measures, adopting new laws that may restrict foreign access to China’s markets and keeping its currency undervalued.

It recommended that Congress enact legislation to respond to China’s currency manipulation and create enforceable disclosure requirements on investments in the United States for foreign sovereign wealth funds and other foreign state-controlled companies.

Estonian Spy Sent U.S. Missile Defense and Other NATO Secrets to Russia

November 19, 2008

A high-ranking Estonian defence official has been charged with treason, accused of passing sensitive NATO information to the Russian government for the past several years.

Estonian sources told Peace and Freedom that Herbert Simm of Estonia has sold US Eastern Euro defense plan, computer codes, missle defense secrets to Russia.

Above: Herbert Simm

According to the British newspaper “The Times”, Herman Simm, a former Estonian Defence Ministry official, could have passed top NATO secrets to Russia. Simm, who was arrested in September under charges of espionage and treason, was responsible for handling all of the country’s classified information incoming from NATO and other allied countries.

“The Times” calls it the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War. Because of his high profile, it is suspected he might have also assisted in letting through other Russian agents.

Estonia is a former Soviet republic, but has one of the more succesful economies amongst former Eastern block countries. Thanks to government efforts, the computer literacy and public IT infrastucture are at a very high level. However, the country has had problems dealing with Russia – this included mass riots after a decision to move a Soviet war memorial, and a massive cyber-attack on the country’s infrastructure that ensued right afterwards. The attack was traced back to Russia, with many suspecting the Russian government of organising it.

Times (UK)

A spy at the heart of Nato may have passed secrets on the US missile shield and cyber-defence to Russian Intelligence, it has emerged.

Herman Simm, 61, an Estonian defence ministry official who was arrested in September, was responsible for handling all of his country’s classified information at Nato, giving him access to every top-secret graded document from other alliance countries.

He was recruited by the Russians in the late 1980s and has been charged in Estonia with supplying information to a foreign power.

Several investigation teams from both the EU and Nato, under the supervision of a US officer, have flown to the Estonian capital Tallinn to assess the scope of what is being seen as the most serious case of espionage against Nato since the end of the Cold War.

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“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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China calls on US to provide data on satellite shootdown

February 21, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) – China called on the United States Thursday to provide information about its shooting down of a defunct US spy satellite and voiced caution about the potential international consequences.

“China is continuing to closely follow the possible harm caused by the US action to outer space security and relevant countries,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said when asked for a reaction to the shootdown.

“China further requests that the US fulfil its international obligations in earnest and promptly provide to the international community the necessary information and relevant data… so that relevant countries can take precautions.”

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Beijing espionage poses ‘No. 1’ threat

January 30, 2008

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
January 30, 2008

China’s aggressive spying, technology theft and computer attacks pose the most significant threats to U.S. national security, officials and analysts told a congressional hearing yesterday.
“China has now become the No. 1 espionage threat to the United States,” Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican, said after a closed-door briefing with U.S. counterintelligence and security officials.
“It is a real problem that is costing us a lot of dollars and potentially puts our soldiers at risk down the road,” he said in an interview.

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Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Economic Espionage

August 6, 2007

Xiaodong Sheldon Meng pleaded guilty to violating several U.S. export laws with the goal of aiding the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. Justice Department announced Aug. 2.

The 42-year-old Meng, formerly a resident of Beijing and also Cupertino, Calif., entered a guilty plea on Aug. 3, admitting to violating the Foreign Economic Espionage Act, the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), said Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, and Scott Schools, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, in a statement.

Specifically, the Justice Department said Meng pleaded guilty to two charges (counts five and seven) of an indictment that was filed last December. One count charged that he violated U.S. law by possessing a trade secret with the aim of benefiting a foreign government.

That trade secret, called “Mantis,” is a Quantum3D-owned product that is designed to simulate realistic motion for training military personnel. Meng is charged with installing a demonstration version of Mantis on a Chinese navy Web site, according to the Justice Department.

He also altered the application to make it appear that ORAD, his employer and a China-based competitor of Quantum3D, had developed the product.

The second count alleged that Meng knowingly violated AECA and ITAR by exporting Quantum3D’s “viXsen” source code, a simulation program used to train fighter pilots and designated as a defense article on the U.S. Munitions List.

Meng failed to garner a State Department export license for viXsen.

Meng, who has been released on $500,000 bond, will be sentenced by a U.S. District Court judge in San Jose on Jan. 13.

FBI Calls Chinese Espionage Against U.S. ‘Substantial’

July 27, 2007

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
July 27, 2007  

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said yesterday that Chinese intelligence operations against the United States are a major problem and that the FBI is stepping up counterespionage efforts against them.

Mr. Mueller was asked during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about growing Chinese espionage activities.

“There is substantial concern,” Mr. Mueller said. “China is stealing our secrets in an effort to leap ahead in terms of its military technology, but also the economic capability of China. It is a substantial threat that we are addressing in the sense of building our program to address this threat.”

He declined to elaborate but said he would be willing to disclose more in a closed-door meeting.

The FBI and other counterintelligence agencies are hiring more agents and analysts who specialize in Chinese affairs to deal with the threat, U.S. officials said.

The FBI in San Francisco last month ran advertisements in three Chinese-language newspapers, asking for help from Chinese Americans to provide information about “illicit activities,” presumably by Chinese intelligence operatives.

Several recent Chinese spy cases highlight the problem of Beijing’s spying, including the case of Los Angeles businesswoman Katrina Leung, a longtime informant for the FBI who was later accused of secretly working for China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security.

Another Chinese spy ring was recently highlighted by the case of Chinese-born defense contractor Chi Mak, who was convicted of passing embargoed U.S. defense technology to China. Several of his relatives also were linked to the compromise of U.S. Navy technology to China.

Noshir Gowadia, a Hawaii-based defense consultant, also was indicted last year on charges of selling classified B-2 bomber and other weapons technology to China. He also was charged with helping Chinese missile designers build a stealth cruise missile. He pleaded not guilty.

Joel Brenner, the director of national counterintelligence, said in an interview in March that China’s theft of technology from the United States is a serious problem and that Beijing is “eating our lunch” in terms of compromised know-how.

Chinese spies are “very aggressive” in obtaining technology, often before it is fully developed by U.S. researchers, Mr. Brenner said.

Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive, said in a recent defense report that Chinese spies are among “the world’s most effective” and include civilian and military spies who have “a global reach.”

Recent Chinese espionage successes include design information on all of the most advanced U.S. nuclear weapons, U.S. missile design and guidance technology, electromagnetic weapons and space-launch capabilities, Miss Van Cleave stated.

China also succeeded in frustrating U.S. intelligence-gathering and counterintelligence against China through Leung, Mr. Brenner said.

China’s government denies that it engaged in intelligence-gathering against the United States.

**Used without objection.