China Watch: Spies Have Long Targeted Politicians
China Watch: Spies Have Long Targeted Politicians
Fang Fang is only one of many Chinese spies to compromise American politicians. So says Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. CA Rep. Eric Swalwell may not be the only politician who got caught in such a trap, either.
Johnson, referencing information from Director of National Security John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray, warned:
“Listen, when you listen to what John Ratcliffe was revealing, and when you listen to Director Wray, that they’re opening up a new investigation on China’s spying every 10 hours, you would think that other members of Congress could be a target. . .”
“The Chinese are very long-term thinking, very strategic, very smart, and very effective.”
But Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) went further, declaring without a doubt that it’s not just Swalwell. Chinese spies are targeting other Congressmen, too. Stewart said in an interview on Tuesday:
“We know that members of Congress, especially those who serve in very sensitive positions are targeted. That’s just a matter of course that we know that from our own experience, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. We know the Chinese Communist Party is targeting businesses, academics, they’re targeting members of Congress, members of the Senate, members of the administration. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.”
According to Sky News Australia host James Morrow, these spies prefer to target Democrats, since Dems have had ongoing relationships with China. Low-hanging fruit, you know.
Particularly effective in infiltrating the powerful in the United States are the honeypots, like Fang Fang.
Nicholas Eftimiades is a former senior U.S. intelligence official who is now a professor at Penn State University, Homeland Security Program. He knows a thing or two about Chinese spies. Eftimiades not only spent decades working in intelligence, he’s also written books on how Chinese conduct espionage.
In an interview, Eftimiades said that the Chinese don’t need to use old cloak-and-dagger techniques to gain intelligence on the U.S. Honeypots are extremely effective. And Fang Fang “beautifully handled” her operation with Swalwell.
Photo of matchbox/personal collection.
Since the Chinese are willing to play the long game, Eftimiades said, they don’t need to rely on classified information. Instead, honeypots like Fang Fang groom local officials who look like they have strong political futures. They volunteer in their campaigns, attend political events, and raise money, as Fang Fang did for Swalwell from 2011 to 2015. With that kind of strategy, who needs spooks?
As Eftimiades said:
“You’re basically jumping over the secret world, and getting to the infrastructure that controls the nation. And that infrastructure is, ironically, not protected.”
That kind of subterfuge, he added, “can really be devastating to another country.” Plus, Congress members don’t have security clearances, which make them particularly susceptible to espionage.
However, the Chinese have been using sexual spies for decades, says Eftimiades. And Congress members aren’t the only ones whom the honeypots snare, either.
In 2014, Benjamin Pierce Bishop, a U.S. military contractor, received a sentence of seven years for passing defense secrets to his Chinese girlfriend. Even worse, Bishop was a former Army Lt. Colonel who held top-secret clearance through his work with the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.
You’d think he would know better. However, the 60-year-old had been emailing secrets about joint training and planning sessions between the U.S. and South Korea to his 27-year-old Chinese girlfriend. She, like Fang Fang, was attending university in the U.S.
Honeypot spies compromised the FBI, too, going back to the 1980’s and stretching into the early 2000’s. Katrina Leung, American citizen, FBI informant, and double agent, became a lover to two FBI agents, taking documents from one agent’s briefcase, copying it, and sending it to China. She was indicted in 2005, although a judge dismissed the case.
These are just a few examples from a strategy that Eftimiades described as “far more vast than any other country on the planet.”
“It’s this coordinated effort, a global effort that interlinks espionage, influence, propaganda, and diplomacy.”
“China’s efforts go from its diplomatic efforts to its collection and influence efforts against the political infrastructure, to information efforts online, even down to their online trolls.”
Congress needs to get their act together, Eftimiades says. But don’t count on Democrats to jump onboard just yet. They’d rather wait for more information. Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) said he hasn’t seen “independent confirmation” of the Axios story on Eric Swalwell. And Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-CT) said, “I’ll have to see what exactly the evidence is.”
No wonder Xi Jinping is thrilled at the prospect of Democrat Joe Biden in the White House.