Former University of California professor Yi-Chi Shih has been found guilty on 18 federal charges for funneling American military technology to China. The 64-year-old electrical engineer has been found guilty of handing stolen U.S. military technology to the Chinese government. Now he faces several lifetimes’ worth of time in a federal prison. Shih’s co-defendant, Kiet Ahn Mai, already pleaded guilty to smuggling charges in December 2018.
When most Americans think of espionage, we think of debonair foreign spies sneaking around military compounds--or bespectacled hackers hammering away at keyboards to steal top-secret information from foreign adversaries. But there is an entire world of espionage happening right under our noses--at American colleges and universities.
America was late to the game--and is now paying the price because China, the world’s second largest and powerful economy behind the U.S., was able to take advantage by stealing secrets from some of the nation’s most critical businesses, including the U.S. government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is worried that the communist-led country has stolen defense secrets and used them to technologically advance their own defense systems, in both capacity and intent.
U.S. authorities were sitting on a sensitive secret last fall when Canada detained a top Huawei Technologies Co. executive on alleged U.S. sanctions violations. Two months earlier, the U.S. had arrested another Chinese national on similar suspicions and was holding her at a grim jail in Washington, D.C. An employee of an unidentified Chinese technology company, she had been nabbed on vacation in California.
A new Pentagon report said that China uses "cyber theft" and other methods to bolster its military, which the report claims will continue to grow rapidly. "China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals' access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches," it said.
The FBI’s director said that the U.S.’s biggest threat is China’s “Whole-of-society Approach” to stealing American innovation. Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations on Friday, April 26, Christopher Wray said, “Put plainly, China seems determined to steal its way up the economic ladder, at our expense.”
“A decade ago, the goal was more narrow. Efforts were focused on government espionage and intellectual property theft. Now, China and other nation-states cast a wide net,” Payton said. “They have learned that all information gathering can be useful, whether the end goal is espionage theft and exploitation of intellectual property or political influence.”
A former State Department employee who held a top-secret clearance pleaded guilty Wednesday to misleading investigators about her contacts with Chinese intelligence agents. Court documents accuse Candace Marie Claiborne, 63, of knowingly supplying information to Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for "tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits" over a five-year period.
Federal officials have labeled Boston a major target of Chinese spies who are looking to steal trade and technology secrets from the US. US Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads a federal force against Chinese espionage in America, said Massachusetts had become a focus of his team’s work, the Associated Press reported.
The severity of the breach is measured in terms of how much information Martin looted from the systems he had access to. Fortunately, he does not appear to have done anything with the data he took. His defense lawyers characterized him as a data hoarder, a victim of compulsive mental illness who piled up classified files and sensitive documents the way other hoarders accumulate newspapers or clothes.