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Question of the Day
Joseph Persichini said: “That’s his personal opinion, and he’s just one person in a community of thousands.”
Mr. Sutter said in an e-mail to a group of China affairs specialists that he met with two FBI counterintelligence agents who sought his help in learning about Chinese intelligence-gathering activities.
“I told the agents that while they seemed like nice people and I tried to be cooperative with the U.S. government, I could not trust them or have any assurance that they would not use any information I provided in some way that would hurt me or others,” he said.
Mr. Sutter said he was upset by the FBI “sting” of former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ron Montaperto, who pleaded guilty in June to illegally withholding classified information and admitted as part of a plea deal that he improperly passed both “top secret” and “secret” intelligence to two Chinese military-intelligence officers.
Mr. Persichini said the FBI will continue to seek information from multiple sources and will continue to request help from other academics and specialists.
Regarding Mr. Sutter, he said: “It’s sad that he has that opinion, but I don’t believe it is widespread.”
China chat group
U.S. government policy and intelligence officials who are part of a private China affairs Internet group, which includes former CIA analyst Robert Sutter, are being advised to stop sending e-mails to the group amid concerns about disclosures of classified information.
The chat group in the past had been called “Chinasec,” short for China security. Participants say it has sought to promote two themes: Use group members’ contacts with reporters at the New York Times, The Washington Post and other press outlets to manipulate coverage and discussion of China’s growing military activities, and to obtain sensitive or classified information and tips from the approximately 15 members of the group who hold high-level U.S. government security clearances.
One member of the group, a Pentagon employee who held a clearance above the “top secret” level, quit the chat group this week in the aftermath of the exposure in this newspaper of Mr. Sutter’s refusal to help the FBI track Chinese spies. The official explained in an e-mail to the group that he could not obtain official authorization for future e-mail discussions.
The defense official warned other officials and contractors who are members of the chat group that if they, too, hold top-secret clearances they can be penalized for continuing to participate.
The official explained that the deputy secretary of defense several years ago sent a memorandum to all officials with access to secrets stating that it is a criminal security violation to discuss work-related matters on an unclassified Internet chat group.
A similar CIA-related chat group was disbanded several years ago amid concerns about disclosures of classified information.
China’s intelligence service is known to be among the most aggressive at collecting intelligence electronically from such forums, mainly through sympathetic group members who have frequent contacts with Chinese nationals.
By Scott Pinsker
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