Suspected Chinese Espionage Leads to Two Arrests in U.S.

As accusations of cyber-espionage bounce back and forth between Washington and Beijing, U.S. authorities have arrested two men accused of involvement in more traditional spying. In Hawaii, defense contractor Benjamin Pierce Bishop is said to have passed national security secrets to a Chinese girlfriend. From Spencer Ackerman at Wired:

Bishop is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Scott Freeman stops short of accusing Bishop’s unnamed paramour, a Chinese national, of being an outright spy. (In other words, if the government suspects her of being a Chinese Anna Chapman, it’s yet to charge her with espionage.) But it alleges that Bishop chatted openly with her about U.S. nuclear systems and “war plans,” and as their affair wore on, she had him checking on what the United States knew about sensitive Chinese naval systems.

Bishop allegedly met the woman identified only as Person 1, a “27-year-old female citizen of the People’s Republic of China” in the United States on a student visa, at a defense conference. By June 2011, the two had begun a relationship. So far, so unremarkable. But by June 2012, Bishop supposedly e-mailed Person 1 classified information on “existing war plans, information regarding nuclear weapons, and relations with international partners.” Unbeknownst to Bishop, he was or would soon be under physical and electronic surveillance.

The FBI’s Honolulu Division has issued a press release containing more details.

At the Atlantic Wire, meanwhile, J.K. Trotter describes the arrest of Bo Jiang (name order reversed), a researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center whom Republican congressman Frank Wolf has labelled a Chinese spy and accused of stealing imaging software for use by the Chinese military.

On Monday evening an officer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a NASA-affiliated Chinese researcher named Bo Jiang while Jiang was onboard a China-bound passenger jet that was taxiing at Dulles International Airport, in Washington, D.C. The particulars of the arrest — an airplane about to leave, a foreign citizen — gave the arrest a cinematic feel, reminiscent of the escape scene in Argo, only in reverse. Gawker called it “a total James Bond scenario.” […]

[…] We don’t know […] if there was any kind of confusion in Jiang’s encounter with the FBI — after all, the arrest warrant indicates that Jiang cooperated with the FBI, and willingly indicated that he was in possession of computer equipment. As for the contents of what he was carrying, that’s even sketchier. At the time of his arrest, Jiang was working on aviation safety — not nuclear launch codes. It’s possible that he just wanted to bring work home while he visited his friends or family in China.

Congressman Wolf, however, isn’t giving Jiang the benefit of the doubt. He told Discovery News that “what they did here potentially could be a direct threat to our country. The Chinese have the most comprehensive spying program in Washington that has ever been. They make the KGB look like they were the junior varsity or freshman team.”

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