Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2013) - Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, today held a press conference revealing a significant new development concerning a Chinese national allegedly involved in security violations at several NASA centers.
Click here to view arrest warrant. The full transcript of Wolf's remarks is below:
Good afternoon. I called this press conference to update you on potential security violations at NASA that first came to the public's attention at a press conference I held earlier this month and were discussed extensively last week during my hearing with the NASA Inspector General Paul Martin.
Yesterday, I learned that Bo Jiang, a contractor at the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) who had been working at NASA-Langley, was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Saturday as he was trying to leave the country.
Mr. Jiang -- who is reportedly affiliated with an institution in China that has been designated as an "entity of concern" by other U.S. government agencies -- was arraigned in federal court in Norfolk about an hour ago. He has been charged with making a false statement to federal law enforcement officials. Here is a copy of the arrest warrant.
As you will see, the FBI opened this case on March 13. According to the warrant, the FBI is "investigating conspiracies and substantive violations of the Arms Export Control Act."
On Friday, March 15, federal agents learned that Mr. Jiang "was leaving the United States abruptly to return to China on a one-way ticket."
On Saturday, March 16, Mr. Jiang traveled by plane from Norfolk to Dulles to connect to a flight to China. While at Dulles he boarded a plane to Beijing. During a "border stop," federal agents conducted a search of Jiang's personal items.
And I'm quoting now directly from the arrest warrant: "During the consensual encounter, federal agents asked Jiang what electronic media he had with him. Jiang told the Homeland Security agent that he had a cellphone, a memory stick, and external hard drive and a new computer. However, during the search, other media items were located that Jiang did not reveal. Such items include an additional laptop, an old hard drive and a SIM card."
The warrant also notes that the FBI "believes this to be material to the federal investigation, in that it was important to learn what electronic media Jiang was taking out of the United States." It also mentions that agents are aware that Mr. Jiang previously traveled to China with a laptop belonging to NASA that agents believe to have contained sensitive information.
I want to commend the federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DHS and the Customs and Border Patrol agents at Dulles, which is in my district, for their work on this case.
Additionally, I also want to credit the whistleblowers at NASA who brought Mr. Jiang's security violations to my attention, which resulted in this investigation.
I also want to recognize the leadership of Langley Research Center, who I understand has moved quickly once I made this incident public earlier this month to review all security protocols and access to the center by foreign nationals. It is my understanding that the center is in the middle of a comprehensive security review and is implementing new training.
I would encourage all NASA centers to follow Langley's lead to ensure that similar security issues are prevented at other centers.
As you may recall, I called the March 7 press conference after the whistleblowers provided my office with a report alerting me to a potential situation at NASA Langley involving a Chinese national - subsequently identified during my hearing last week as Bo Jiang - who was provided access and information he should have otherwise been restricted from receiving.
Even more troubling, the investigative report identified how Mr. Jiang was allowed by NASA and NIA supervisors to take his work and volumes of other NASA research back to China for a period of time, as documented in an investigative report I received.
After learning about this information, I asked the FBI's counterintelligence office to meet with the whistleblowers and provided the bureau with a copy of all of the materials I had received. Additionally, I called Director Mueller to personally raise this case.
Immediately following the March 7 press conference, I wrote both Director Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil MacBride, and asked them to investigate and prosecute to the full extent of the law.
Although we won't know the nature of the information on the hard drives until the FBI fully reviews it, we know that Mr. Jiang has in the past taken sensitive information back to China that he should not have been allowed to remove from Langley.
I am particularly concerned that this information may pertain to the source code for high-tech imaging technology that Jiang has been working on with NASA. This information could have significant military applications for the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army.
The reason this is so important is that the president's own strategy on mitigating the theft of U.S. intellectual property specifically singled out "unmanned aerial vehicles, and other aerospace/aeronautic technologies" and "civilian and dual-use technologies in sectors likely to experience fast growth" as information of the greatest interest to foreign spies, including China.
These technologies are the very programs that NASA Langley and other NASA centers are working on.
I remain concerned that Mr. Jiang was employed by NIA allegedly at the direction of NASA officials in an apparent attempt to circumvent appropriations restrictions the Congress has in place to prevent the hiring of certain foreign nationals of concern.
Additionally, it is my understanding that NASA spent more than $200,000 directly on Mr. Jiang's contract over the last two calendar years. According to the Washington Examiner, NIA has a $146 million contract with NASA. I also have information showing that NIA employs other Chinese nationals, possibly under the same arrangements as Mr. Jiang.
I also have seen documents showing that other NASA contractors are similarly employing Chinese nationals.
This begs the question: how many Chinese nationals currently work at NASA How many other foreign nationals from designated countries work at NASA
We have not yet received a response from NASA after the question was raised during our hearing with the IG last week.
This case has raised important issues that NASA and the Congress must consider, including whether contractors and universities working with NASA are unwittingly contributing to this problem.
I believe this merits a complete audit of each of NASA's contractors that employ foreign nationals from designated countries to work at NASA centers. We have to know whether these contractors, who are receiving sizable contracts at taxpayer expense, are fully complying with the law and NASA security regulations.
For example, in the Bo Jiang case, according to documents I have received in the course of this investigation, the following terms of the security agreement that NASA approved when it granted Jiang access to Langley were violated over the last several years:
"The visitor shall be escorted at all times."
"Approved access is limited to information in the public domain; no access to classified, sensitive but unclassified, or export-controlled information or hardware is authorized."
"The visit is approved based on no cost to NASA; payment of stipends/expenses against a NASA grant/contract/agreement is not authorized."
"Release of NASA software source code is not authorized."
"The employer, National Institute of Aerospace, is responsible for compliance with U.S. export control laws and regulations and for seeking an appropriate license if required; NASA host should be apprised of these provisos and is responsible for informing the employer of this proviso."
However, what particularly troubles me is that, according to internal NASA e-mails I have seen, upon learning about the security violations in the Bo Jiang case, a NASA Langley official wrote: "I think there are times when rules do definitely apply... and I think there are times for exceptions... I am asking for an exception in this case" The NASA official also pleaded that, "I think it would be in the government's best interests to be able to continue our work with him and the best use of taxpayers money."
I couldn't disagree more. And I think most Americans would similarly be concerned.
Unfortunately, I believe that this lax security culture, as exemplified by these comments, may be a problem at other NASA centers. That's why we need a comprehensive review of security enforcement at all centers and compliance by all contractors employing foreign nations.
We know that foreign espionage is a major concern wherever federal labs and research centers are located. For example, last week, in response to questions raised about the Jiang case, the Web site for the Huntsville Times reported: "The Cold War may be over, but spying to learn valuable corporate and national secrets didn't end with it. 'Far from it,' says a spokesman for the FBI field office charged with protecting critical national assets and secrets generated by Huntsville's military and aerospace centers. 'Huntsville is a major target for foreign nationals (spies) working to obtain classified information,' FBI spokesman Paul Daymond said."
In light of this weekend's development, I am reiterating my expectation that NASA will immediately move forward with the following seven actions that I outlined during my March 7 press conference. I want to repeat these seven actions again today and I will be requesting that the administrator confirm whether these steps will be taken during our appropriations hearing this Wednesday:
First: The administrator should immediately appoint an independent, outside panel to comprehensively review and audit security protocols and enforcement, including foreign national access and export controls, at every NASA center and headquarters. The panel should have unrestricted access to center personnel and records and report back to the administrator and Congress within six months on its findings and recommendations.
As I said before, I believe the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) would be an appropriate outside authority to conduct this review, and it should be chaired by someone with a strong security background, like former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh or someone else of his stature.
Second: NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review and all controlled documents are removed from the system.
Additionally, NASA should provide the Defense Department, Commerce Department, State Department and the Congress a detailed disclosure report describing any documents found to have been inappropriately made available and determine which countries of concern that have accessed these controlled documents.
Third: NASA should immediately review all foreign nationals with current NASA credentials -- especially those that have been on site for extended periods of time -- to identify and remove any individuals with ties to organizations or foreign governments designated as counterintelligence threats, including designated "entities of concerns" or any Chinese national with a professional tie to an institution connected to the Chinese government.
Additionally, NASA should conduct an exhaustive counterintelligence review and consider increasing the counterintelligence capabilities in light of the foreign national presence in NASA programs.
Fourth: NASA should impose an immediate moratorium on the granting of any new credentials to foreign nationals of designated countries of concern until after the imposition of stronger background check requirements in order to capture potential disqualifying factors that may not become apparent through the minimal reviews currently performed. Potential disqualifying factors must include ties to organizations or foreign governments designated as counterintelligence threats, including (per section 539 of P.L. 112-55) professional ties to institutions connected to the Chinese government.
Fifth: NASA security, working with outside law enforcement counterparts, should impose criminal sanctions against anyone who has knowingly violated security-related laws and regulations, and impose administrative sanctions against those who unintentionally violate such laws and regulations.
Sixth: NASA should immediately implement new training for agency employees to reduce or eliminate instances in which security-related laws and regulations are violated accidentally.
And, finally, seventh: I am prepared to approve a reprogramming from NASA to reallocate additional funding and staffing for agency security-related functions, including center security, export control and counterintelligence. There is no reason that these positions at any center or headquarters should not be fully staffed and resourced. This should be a top priority.
These are all common sense steps that should be taken immediately. And I expect the administrator to inform the appropriations committee on Wednesday whether these actions will be taken.