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Intelligence: China Does Harvard


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February 23, 2020:

In January an American and two Chinese were indicted for secretly providing China with U.S. technology. The American was Charles Lieber. Head of the Harvard Chemistry and Chemical Biology department. He was accused of secretly establishing a working relationship with a Chinese university at Wuhan. Lieber established research efforts at Harvard, recruiting top scientists to work on projects of interest to China and secretly passing research results to China. He also received millions of dollars from China to further this research. During the FBI investigation Lieber repeatedly lied about these activities, which did not prevent the FBI from eventually gathering all they needed to arrest Lieber and indict him. It is rare for China to convince a senior American academic, like Harvard department head Charles Lieber to get involved in illegal research projects. Why Lieber got involved in such blatantly illegal activities was not disclosed and details probably won’t emerge until his trial.

Also indicted for Harvard related espionage was a Chinese citizen, Zheng Zaosong, who was studying at Harvard on a student visa and was accused of trying to smuggle 21 vials of biological material and research data back to China. The third defendant was Yanqing Yeh, a Chinese student at nearby Boston University. She was also an active duty lieutenant in the Chinese Army who was supervised by a colonel at a Chinese military academy that was working on new technology for the Chinese military. This school was on an American list of Chinese educational institutions that were banned from working with anyone in the United States. Yeh was also caught trying to smuggle research data back to China. Yeh had lied about her military status when she applied for a student visa, asserting that she had been discharged from the army and left out her connections with the banned (in the U.S.) Chinese military academy she was working for as an army officer. She was also accused of being an unregistered foreign agent. Among the items uncovered by the FBI was that Yeh had been assigned to investigate one American academic at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School who was researching computer security. Given how active China has been using hackers to steal valuable data from the United States, that particular assignment was ominous. Yeah had presented herself as student but further investigation showed she was a very active Chinese spy.

It is unclear if Lieber, Yeh or Zheng were working together and it is likely they were not. A standard foreign espionage procedure is to have such individuals handled separately by their handlers back in China. These three indictments are the result of the United States imposing more restrictions on Chinese officials who come to the U.S. and have contact, for whatever reason, with American academics, researchers and local (city, state and country) government officials. These Chinese will have to notify the U.S. government of such contacts. Based on recent FBI investigations and prosecutions, this will make it more difficult to operate their massive espionage program that seeks details of how American patents are implemented as well as trade secrets (items that are not patented but are essential for operating a business or factory).

It was already illegal for American academics and researchers to secretly work for Chinese government or commercial firms. These restrictions won’t trigger similar measures for Americans in China because China has long assigned police and intel specialists to closely observe who visiting Americans visit......................(Snip)

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