Federal agents arrested a Pentagon official and three other persons yesterday in a nationwide sweep of Chinese espionage agents.
Senior U.S. officials said the two separate spy cases highlight the national security threat posed by Beijing’s aggressive intelligence gathering of secrets and technology.
The arrests were carried out in Virginia, Louisiana and Southern California, and the secrets compromised include military communications technology, arms sales and corporate trade secrets related to the space shuttle, according to court papers.
Gregg William Bergersen, 51, of Alexandria, worked for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in Arlington and was arrested at his home on charges of selling secrets to foreign agents.
Tai Shen Kuo, 58, a Taiwan-born U.S. citizen, and Yu Xin Kang, 33, a Chinese national, were arrested in New Orleans as part of the spy ring that worked under the direction of a Chinese intelligence official based in Beijing. Both face charges of conspiracy to provide defense secrets to China.
Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, said in announcing the arrests that Chinese spies are among the most aggressive and are “particularly adept and particularly determined and methodical in their espionage efforts.”
Recent cases have shown Beijing obtained secrets and technology at “close to Cold War levels,” ranging from battlefield night-vision equipment to accelerometers used in the development of smart bombs and missiles, he said.
One Pentagon official said the case is potentially very damaging because Mr. Bergersen was director of the Navy’s command, control, communications and intelligence office in the early 2000s. The office has access to the most sensitive information on U.S. warfighting capabilities, a key target of China’s military spies.
Mr. Bergersen was employed as a weapons system policy analyst for the DSCA, which is in charge of U.S. arms sales to foreign nations. He held a top-secret clearance.
Court papers show that Mr. Bergersen was paid cash by Mr. Kuo in exchange for information about military communications used to link U.S. and Taiwanese forces, and a classified list of arms sales to Taiwan.
The spy operation appeared to have been a “false flag” operation that fooled Mr. Bergersen into supplying secrets to Taiwan, a U.S. ally, when the ultimate recipient was communist China.
Mr. Kuo, according to the FBI affidavit, worked with Miss Kang and an unidentified official in China to supply the information, in document and digital form, that was obtained during meetings with Mr. Bergersen.
The FBI recorded several meetings between Mr. Bergersen and Mr. Kuo that included references to the transfer of classified information, including a secret conference called the Interoperability Management Board on Taiwan’s U.S.-purchased command-and-control system, called Po Sheng, or Broad Victory.
The meetings took place in Alexandria, Las Vegas, Charleston, S.C., and Loudoun County, Va., between March and September. The two men were set to meet yesterday.
Mr. Kuo set up companies that sought to obtain contracts for the communications system, court papers show.
A second case involving China included the arrest yesterday in California of a former Boeing engineer who was indicted on charges of economic espionage and acting as an unregistered Chinese agent.
Dongfan “Greg” Chung, 72, of Orange, Calif., was a former Rockwell International engineer until the company was bought by Boeing in 1996. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Mr. Chung held a secret clearance and worked at Rockwell and Boeing facilities in Downy, Calif., and Huntington Beach, Calif., respectively, court papers show.
He is charged with providing Boeing proprietary information on the space shuttle and U.S. military aircraft and helicopters to China beginning in 2002.
Chuck Rosenberg, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told reporters that “we think these both are serious cases.” “Whenever national defense information is disclosed … or trade secrets, it’s a matter of great concern and a matter of concern for our national security,” he said.
Court documents stated Mr. Chung was tasked by Chinese agents to supply documents and to give lectures in China on space technology and military systems.
According to an October federal indictment unsealed yesterday, Mr. Chung wrote to an official at the Harbin Institute of Technology after sending three sets of manuals on “flight stress analysis.”
“I would like to make an effort to contribute to the Four Modernizations of China,” the document quotes Mr. Chung as saying. “Having been a Chinese compatriot for over 30 years and being proud of the people’s efforts for the motherland, I am regretful for not contributing anything.”
Documents listed in the indictment indicate the information sent to China included data on the C-17, the Pentagon’s most widely used transport. The space-shuttle data included details of a high-technology radar.
According to government officials, both cases grew out of the 2005 spy case involving Chi Mak and Tai Mak, Chinese-born brothers convicted of espionage-related charges last year involving U.S. Navy warship and submarine technology passed illegally to China.
China is engaged in a major space program, including development of a space shuttle, and has sought to cooperate with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA suspended space cooperation with China last year after Beijing conducted a test of an anti-satellite weapon that left thousands of pieces of debris in low Earth orbit. The debris poses a damage risk to orbiting satellites and spacecraft.