Two new spy cases are the latest evidence of what U.S. officials say is an intense effort by the Chinese government to steal U.S. government and industrial secrets.
One case involves a government official who works as a Defense Department weapons analyst and two men in New Orleans, who are accused of passing classified data on U.S. weapons systems to a senior Chinese official, according to a formal affidavit released today by the Justice Department.
Gregg Bergersen, a weapons systems policy analyst at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which manages military sales to foreign governments, is alleged to have received money in return for documents, including classified data on planned weapons sales to Taiwan, over a two-year period. Two men, including a U.S. citizen of Taiwanese origin and a Chinese citizen, are charged with cultivating Bergersen as a source and sending the information to the Chinese government.
In the second case, a former Boeing engineer is accused of stealing proprietary data on several aerospace programs, including the space shuttle. An indictment alleges that Chinese officials began asking Dongfan "Greg" Chung of Orange, Calif., for specific data as far back as 1979.
The arrests follow a stepped-up effort by the FBI to go after Chinese espionage. U.S. officials have announced a steady flow of Chinese-related espionage cases in recent years, including accusations against a prominent Asian-American bookstore owner and Republican fundraiser.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Service has called Chinese spy efforts the leading threat to the security of U.S. technology, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. "It's a threat to our national security and our economic position in the world," Kenneth Wainstein, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in revealing the indictments.
The problem has worsened in recent years. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell noted last September that China's intelligence agencies "are among the most aggressive in collecting against sensitive and protected U.S. systems, facilities, and development projects, and their efforts are approaching Cold War levels."
The Bergersen affidavit is a revealing document about the mechanics, as well as the dynamics, of espionage. Many of the alleged meetings between Bergersen and Tai Shen Kuo, the naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in New Orleans, took place in suburban restaurants in Virginia, but they also met in a Las Vegas casino.
Excerpts from transcripts of their conversations included in the affidavit also reveal a skittish man who was nervous about getting caught.
"You know all this sh— is classified, man," Bergersen allegedly told Kuo. "Uh, you know, we gotta be very careful about it." In a later conversation, he allegedly explained why he was letting Kuo read and copy a document marked "Secret" but not keep it. "I'd get fired for sure on that," he said, according to the affidavit. "Well, not even fired. I'd go to f—-ing jail."
Bergersen faces up to 10 years in jail, while the other two men could serve life in prison if convicted.
U.S. officials say that Kuo and Bergersen had planned to meet again today at a restaurant in Alexandria, Va., which prompted the arrests.
— Kevin Whitelaw