Spy damage

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China’s acquisition of defense technology was highlighted in the plea deal reached this week in the case of a family spy ring of five Chinese agents in California.

Tai Mak, his wife, Fuk Li, and their son, Billy Mak, all pleaded guilty this week to charges related to the illegal export of defense technology to China.

Court documents show the spy ring compromised sensitive data for Navy warships, submarines and aircraft carriers, the extent of which is still being investigated.

On Wednesday, the last member of the spy ring, Rebecca Chiu, pleaded guilty to being a Chinese agent. She is the wife of Chi Mak, a Chinese-born U.S.

defense contractor and the central figure in the ring, who was convicted last month of conspiring to supply sensitive but unclassified defense technology to a Chinese intelligence agent identified as Pu Pei-liang.

A court document made public this week revealed that information involved in the case was extremely sensitive. It included data on the Navy’s advance propulsion system called the Quiet Electric Drive to be used on both warships and submarines. One intelligence official said the system can make the huge engines sound “like a Lexus at idle.” The document stated that if the information reached China it would allow Beijing’s military to track U.S. submarines and surface ships. The submarine data were described as “extremely sensitive information.” “By virtue of his employment as an electrical engineer with Power Paragon and its work for the United States Navy, coconspirator Chi had access to plans and other classified and sensitive technical information concerning U.S. Navy warships and submarines, some of which constituted defense articles,” the document stated. “The People's Republic of China sought to obtain technical information about United States Navy warships and submarines to assist the PRC in its own efforts to develop a so-called blue water navy.” Other compromised data included information on the Navy’s DDX next-generation destroyer and U.S. aircraft carrier programs, something China is interested in building.

Joel Brenner, a senior U.S. counterintelligence coordinator, said in a recent speech that Chi Mak had admitted he had passed information to the Chinese since 1983, and that the technologies compromised included the power distribution technology for the Aegis cruiser’s radar system.

“This compromise is not small potatoes,” Mr. Brenner said. “It shortens by years the technological advantage of the U.S. Navy. It degrades the Navy’s deterrent capability in the Taiwan Strait. And it puts the lives of our sons and daughters in the Navy at risk. From a purely fiscal point of view, it also means the Chinese are leveraging the American R&D; budget - your tax dollars and mine - in support of their own war-fighting capability.” Brain warfare The Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community are studying ways to better understand the how and why of human behavior to help war fighters deal with insurgencies such as those in Iraq, likely future conflicts and other global problems, said national security specialist John Stanton.

Mr. Stanton has written a paper to be presented at a conference in Portugal next week on the new research area called “evolutionary cognitive neuroscience,” (ECN) a subject that captured his interest after he read Lt. Gen. David H.

Petraeus’ revised Army counterinsurgency manual. The manual identifies the fact that the U.S. military needs to learn more about brain behavior relationships in networked, social environments.

Studies in the area “may produce tools that advance humanity’s ability to understand and manage itself,” he stated.

On the downside, Mr. Stanton warned that the ECN research could lead to the creation of “neuroweapons” that “seek to turn the speed of thought into a weapon, or programs that blur the line between human and machine.” Among the potential weapons are “non-traceable neuroweapons with viral genetic payloads” that could “be used to disrupt the brain and central nervous system.” The field could help social scientists get information from prisoners of war during interrogation and could find ways to minimize violence and ethnic conflict, and prevent or manage warfare, pandemics and poverty.

Gates visit Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made a stopover in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan and said the two nations are expanding military and nonmilitary cooperation.

That is bad news for Moscow and Beijing, which have been quietly working behind the scenes to have the U.S. military expelled not just from Kyrgyzstan but from other locations in Central Asia. China views the U.S. military presence as threatening strikes on China during any future conflict; Russia opposes the U.S. presence because it views Central Asia’s former Soviet republics as its sphere of influence.

The U.S. operates an air base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan, which has come under criticism after an Air Force security officer fatally shot a civilian driving a fuel truck at an entry control point after he thought the truck was a vehicle bomb.

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