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Tag: China

‘More Than 10,000 spies’ Roam Washington D.C. for Secrets, And They’re Hard to Identify

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Among the civil servants, business people, diplomats, tourists and law enforcement officials in Washington D.C. are “more than 10,000 spies,” according to the International Spy Museum.

Although the actual numbers are in debate, the FBI agrees the city is flush with spies.

“It’s unprecedented — the threat from our foreign adversaries, specifically China on the economic espionage and the espionage front,” Brian Dugan, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, told WTOP for a three-part series on espionage.

The spies come from all over, and they’re increasingly using technology in an attempt to steal secrets. After all, Washington D.C. is home to more than 175 foreign embassies, chanceries, residences and diplomatic missions. Then there are tens of thousands of international students, and an “untold number of business people with links to foreign intelligence services,” WTOP reported.

“A spy is nondescript. A spy is going to be someone that’s going to be a student in school, a visiting professor, your neighbor. It could be a colleague or someone that shares the soccer field with you,” Dugan said.

Highly skilled spies are trained to become virtually invisible to unsuspecting people, and they’re elusive to even the most trained spy hunters.

Among the most troublesome spies are Russians.

“The Russians are hyper focused on the United States,” John Sipher, a retired CIA official. “They see us as their main adversary, the main enemy. All the elements of state power — whether it be their diplomatic service or intelligence services or police services — are focused on the United States.”
Robert Baer, who was a covert operative for the CIA for decades, said it’s not easy identifying a spy.

“Everybody in the espionage business is working undercover,” Baer said. “So if they’re in Washington, they’re either in an embassy or they’re a businessman and you can’t tell them apart because they never acknowledge what they’re doing. And they’re good, so they leave no trace of their communications.”

One reason spies are becoming so common is they have a lot of people from which to recruit, Dugan said.

“There’s a large population in retirement or getting close to retirement,” Dugan said. “The baby boomers are all leaving and that population is looking for post-government jobs”

He added, “Of course there’s always going to be moments that we’re going to have people decide to cooperate with the enemy.”

FBI Investigates Whether GOP Donor Funneled Chinese Donations into Trump’s Campaign

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating whether a Republican donor and Florida massage parlor entrepreneur illegally funneled money into the President Trump’s re-election campaign from China.

The bureau also is investigator whether Li “Cindy” Yang committed other possible campaign finance violations, The Miami Herald first reported.

A source familiar with the probe said investigators have obtained a federal grand jury subpoena seeking records from Yang’s associate, Bing Bing Peranio, an employee of Yang’s family’s spa business who donated a maximum $5,400 to Trump’s reelection campaign.

The subpoena is targeting records related to the March 5, 2018, donation.

Peranio confirmed to The Miami Herald that she had received a subpoena and that she was interviewed at home by FBI agents Thursday.

FBI agents are investigating whether Yang reimbursed Peranio for the donation.

Yang’s business offered Chinese executives access to Trump and his family at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. Yang is no stranger there, having promoted events at the club and selling tickets on social media in China.

Former CIA Officer Arrested in Alleged Plot to Dismantle U.S. Spy Network

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former CIA officer long suspected of helping China disable the United States’ sophisticated spy network has been arrested and charged in federal court with the unlawful retention of nation defense information that he’s accused of leaking to Beijing.

The arrest of Jerry Chun Shing Lee at Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday capped a five-year investigation spearheaded by the FBI, the New York Times reports

Federal investigators became suspicious that the CIA had within its ranks a mole when the intelligence agency began losing its closely guarded informants in China. The FBI said it discovered Lee, who left the CIA in 2007 and moved to Hong Kong, was leaking the identities of the informants. 

In 2o12, while Lee was visiting family in the U.S., FBI agents scoured his luggage and found two volumes of handwritten notes containing classified information.

The dismantling of America’s spy network has been considered one of the U.S.’s worst intelligence blunders in recent years. 

FBI: Abduction Suspect Viewed Sexual Fetish Website Before Kidnapping

Abduction suspect Brendt Christensen, via LinkedIn.

Abduction suspect Brendt Christensen, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

About two months before police say he kidnapped a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois, the 28-year-old suspect appears to have visited the most popular sexual fetish networking site on the internet.

Brendt Allen Christensen was charged in the June 9 abduction of 26-year-old Yingying Zhang, who authorities believe is dead. On April 19, federal investigators said Christensen used his phone to visit FetLife.com, a forum that included threads called “Perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping,” CNN reports. 

Christensen, who remains behind bars, is expected in federal court in Urbana on Monday.

FetLife bills itself as “the Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community” and was created in 2008 by Canadian software developer John Baku. Since then, the site claims to have more than 5 million registered members.

The site dubs itself as a “safe place for kinksters” and is only intended for consensual adults.

According to the FBI, Zhang was kidnapped during the day after she was running late to sign a lease. Authorities believe she agreed to hop in the case with Christensen, a stranger, after missing two buses.

During surveillance, the FBI said Christensen admitted to kidnapping the Chinese scholar.

State Department Employee Charged for Allegedly Lying to FBI

U.S. Department of State headquarters in Washington D.C.

U.S. Department of State headquarters in Washington D.C.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A 60-year-old employee of the State Department was charged Wednesday with two felonies for allegedly making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding.

CBS News reports that Candace Marie Claiborne is accused of concealing numerous contacts with Chinese intelligence agencies. 

Authorities also say Claiborne failed to report gifts from her Chinese contacts.

CBS News reports:

Claiborne allegedly failed to report repeated contacts with two intelligence agents of the People’s Republic of China, and the agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years, prosecutors said.

According to an affidavit, the gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s bank account, an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment and a monthly stipend. Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, the affidavit alleges, while others were provided through a co-conspirator.

DEA to Open New Office in China to Combat Sale of Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic opioid tablets

Synthetic opioid tablets

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Hoping to combat China’s role in the drug trade, the DEA is planning to open a new office in Southern China, and a top administrator is visiting the country next week.

The visit will be the first in more than a decade for the DEA, the Associated Press reports. 

DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg plans to visit Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong next week.

China invited the DEA to help crack down on the increasing sale of synthetic drugs to the U.S.

If all goes as planned, two special agents will occupy a new office in the city of Guangzhou.

“Intelligence and investigative information have shown that Guangzhou has strong ties to international drug trafficking organizations operating in China and elsewhere,” Russell Baer, a DEA special agent in Washington, said in an email. “These criminal groups in Guangzhou utilize trade-based money laundering schemes to legitimize drug profits, use the port facilities as a transit point to ship illegal narcotics, and purchase synthetic drugs along with precursor chemicals.”

Other Stories of Interest

Engineer Accused of Helping China Produce Nuclear Material Is Cooperating with FBI

Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho

Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An American engineer accused of helping China develop and produce nuclear material is cooperating with the FBI.

Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho is expected to plead guilty Friday in federal court as part of a plea deal in which he provided vital information about the inner workings of China’s nuclear program, the USA Today reports.

It’s a big victory for the FBI’s first case of nuclear espionage involving China.

Federal authorities indicted Ho, his firm, Energy Technology International and Chinese nuclear power plant China General Nuclear Power in April.

The USA Today wrote:

It is the first such case in the nation brought under a provision of law that regulates the sharing of U.S. nuclear technology with certain countries deemed too untrustworthy to see it. Those countries include China. Although the technology is used for nuclear-power generation, the by-product of that process can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

The investigation began at the behest of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which contacted the FBI with concerns about one of its senior executives, engineer Ching Huey, who later admitted he was paid by Ho and, by extension, the Chinese government, to supply information about nuclear power production and even traveled to China on the Chinese government’s dime. Huey agreed to cooperate in the probe. He has since struck a plea deal.

FBI Investigates Several Years of China-Linked Hacks of FDIC

computer spies2By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating what appears to be Chinese military-sponsored hacks of computers at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation since 2010, sources told Reuters. 

During the security breach, hackers infiltrated dozens of computers belonging to the FDIC, one of the largest federal agencies that regulates commercial banks in the U.S.

Congressional staff reviewed the internal communications between senior FDIC officials.

It’s unclear how long the FBI has been investigating, but the probe is active.

The FDIC declined to comment on the investigation, but said “immediate steps” were taken to find the hackers.