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Biden’s DOJ ENDS Trump national security program set up to combat Chinese espionage

Biden’s DOJ ENDS Trump national security program set up to combat Chinese espionage following complaints it discriminated against Asian-American professors and led to failed prosecutions of academics


The Justice Department is ditching the China Initiative, a national security program designed to tackle Chinese economic espionage in the US after a string of cases collapsed amid complaints it was fueling suspicion against Chinese Americans.

It was launched by the Trump administration three years ago amid concerns of intellectual property theft at research universities.  

Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, announced a change of strategy Wednesday.

He said it followed a months-long review that found it was preventing universities attracting top talent.

Instead, he said the work would continue as part of a broader strategy that included spying by Iran and North Korea. 

‘Anything that creates the impression that the Department of Justice applies different standards based on race or ethnicity harms the department and our efforts, and it harms the public,’ he told reporters. 

‘I do believe that the China Initiative was driven by genuine national security concerns. But I’m also mindful that the department must maintain the trust of the people whom we serve.’

Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, said on Wednesday that the Department of Justice was ending its ‘China Initiative,’ following the collapse of high-profile cases and that its targeting of a single nationality meant it was racist

In one of the most high-profile cases, the department dropped its case against Gang Chen, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who had been accused of failing to disclose Chinese-government affiliations in a grant application

In one of the most high-profile cases, the department dropped its case against Gang Chen, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who had been accused of failing to disclose Chinese-government affiliations in a grant application

The program was established in 2018 under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a way to thwart what officials said were aggressive efforts by China to steal American intellectual property and to spy on American industry and research.

The Justice Department said it was responsible for major prosecutions and its website lists almost 60 cases, including hacking and making false statements in grant applications.

But cases have also been withdrawn or thrown out by judges.

In January, for example, the department dropped its case against Gang Chen, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor.

Chen was arrested on Jan. 14, 2021, one of former President Trump’s last days in office.

He was accused of failing to disclose Chinese government affiliations in grant applications to the Department of Energy in 2017. Chen denied the charge.

Prosecutors dropped the case a year later when it emerged the Department of Energy said Chen had not been required to submit the information on his forms.  

In an interview with the New York Times after the charge was dropped, he said it was hard to celebrate the result.

‘We are all losers, right?’ he said. ‘My reputation got ruined. 

‘My students, my post-docs, they changed their career. They changed to other groups. 

‘M.I.T., the country, the U.S., we lose. I can’t calculate the loss. That loss cannot be calculated.’ 

His was not the only example.

A federal judge in September dismissed the charges against a University of Tennessee professor accused of hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving NASA grants.

But administration officials say the threat from China remains.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a speech last month that the threat from China

was ‘more brazen’ than ever, with the FBI opening new cases to counter Chinese intelligence operations every 12 hours or so.

‘I’m not taking any tools off the table here,’ Olsen said. In a speech at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, he noted that despite the diverse range of threats, ‘it is clear that the government of China stands apart.’

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