For the first time in more than 30 years, the United States secretly expelled two Chinese embassy officials on suspicion of espionage after they drove on to a sensitive military base in Norfolk, Virginia, in September, The New York Times reports. The State Department declined to comment and the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy didn't reply to requests for comment, but six people with knowledge of the expulsions spoke to the Times about the incident.
The officials, who were with their wives, were reportedly told to go through the gate and turn around after they were denied access at the base's checkpoint, but they continued driving before being stopped. The officials reportedly said they didn't understand the English instructions and got lost, but American officials reportedly believe at least one of the officials was a Chinese intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover.
The Trump administration reportedly fears China is ramping up its espionage in the U.S. as economic and geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to simmer. The Times notes that so far China hasn't retaliated by expelling American diplomats or intelligence officers from Beijing, so it's possible the government understands the officials overstepped their boundaries in this case. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell
A Chinese intelligence officer has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets from a U.S. aerospace company, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Yanjun Xu was arrested April 1 in Belgium, and extradited to the U.S. on Tuesday. Court documents say he is an official with China's Ministry of State Security. Investigators say Xu met an employee of Ohio-based GE Aviation last year at a university in China, and persuaded the man to send him company computer files. Xu then arranged to meet with the man in Belgium, and asked him to bring more files. He was arrested that day.
Xu was trying to determine how the company builds and tests jet engine fan blades made from composite materials, NBC News reports. "This case is not an isolated incident," John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's national security division, said. "It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense." U.S. officials say this is the first time an alleged Chinese spy has been brought to the United States to face prosecution. A spokesman for GE Aviation said Xu did not target or obtain any sensitive information connected to military programs. Catherine Garcia
In 2013, Carter Page, an energy consultant and future campaign adviser to Donald Trump, was targeted for recruitment by Russian spies, BuzzFeed News reports.
Page first met Victor Podobnyy, a Russian intelligence operative working at the time at Moscow's U.N. office in New York, in January 2013 at an energy conference. In January 2015, after federal investigators broke up a Russian spy ring looking for details on how to develop alternative energy, Podobnyy and two other Russians were charged by the U.S. government for acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, BuzzFeed News reports. In a complaint filed by the government, there is the transcript of a recorded conversation between Podobnyy and another man, with Podobnyy discussing his attempt to recruit someone referred to as "Male-1." Page confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he is "Male-1."
The complaint says that from January to June 2013, Page met with Podobnyy several times, corresponded with him via email, and "provided documents to [Podobnyy] about the energy business." Page told BuzzFeed News he never gave Podobnyy any sensitive information or material, and he believes the complaint was written in a way that made it clear he was the person Podobnyy was trying to recruit. In a previous conversation with BuzzFeed News, Page was asked if he ever met with Russian intelligence operatives, and he said he was "very careful when I say 'never,' but even if I had inadvertently had 'contact' such as briefly saying hello to someone who might fall under that label, in passing, nothing I ever said to them or anyone else would've ever broken any law." For those unfamiliar with Page, get to know him through this lengthy interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Catherine Garcia