on the Inside: Foreign
Intrigue on American Soil
(FBI) There were secret meetings in restaurants, encrypted e-mail
messages using a mysterious shorthand, suitcases crammed full
of stolen documents. There were covert payoffs: a pocket stuffed with a wad of bills,
free poker games in Vegas, a wallet suddenly flush with cash. There
were bogus cover stories for trips to the “motherland” where
secrets were passed and clandestine couriers who helped deliver
materials into foreign hands.
If it all sounds very cloak and dagger, that’s
because it is. Two cases worked by the FBI and its partners
to fruition Monday with four arrests on opposite coasts had all
the intrigue of a good spy novel.
In the first investigation, a former Boeing and
Rockwell engineer in California who had access to secret materials
was charged with several counts of economic espionage—including
stealing U.S. high-tech trade secrets relating to the Space Shuttle
and other aerospace and military systems and passing them to
The engineer allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of documents,
many of which never made it to China. But he did provide China
with some two dozen manuals on the B-1 Bomber and traveled to
that country under of the guise of giving lectures, while secretly
meeting with Chinese government officials and agents.
In the second investigation, a weapons policy analyst at the
Department of Defense—along with a New Orleans businessman and a Chinese national living
in the U.S.—were charged with passing classified government materials
to China. Much of the information related to the sale of military technology
According to court documents, the New Orleans
businessman cultivated the relationship with the analyst (and
other U.S. government
officials) and helped funnel information to the Chinese government.
The Chinese national served as a “cut-out”—a
go-between who worked with the businessman so an unnamed official
in China could avoid direct contact with the analyst.
The Defense analyst’s series of secret meetings and telling
conversations with the businessman—including admissions
that he didn’t want to get caught and go to jail—are
recounted in court documents.
How’d we catch these spies? By using our own set of tradecraft,
including surveillance, court-authorized searches and wiretaps,
extensive translation work, and close coordination with NASA,
the Air Force, and other government agencies.
It all goes to show that while the Cold War is
over, espionage is alive and well. Countries around the world
are as determined
as ever to steal our nation’s sensitive military technologies
and valuable trade secrets—even if that means resorting
to traditional tricks like recruiting American turncoats.
You can help prevent espionage and potentially earn a reward
of up to $500,000 by reporting suspicious activities. Contact
the FBI field office nearest you and ask to speak with our Counterintelligence
Domain Coordinator. Or submit an anonymous tip online.