By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
December 21, 2007
China's intelligence service gained access to a secret National Security
Agency listening post in Hawaii through a Chinese-language translation
service, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The spy penetration was discovered several years ago as part of a major
counterintelligence probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service
(NCIS) that revealed an extensive program by China's spy service to
steal codes and other electronic intelligence secrets, and to recruit
military and civilian personnel with access to them.
According to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, China's
Ministry of State Security, the main civilian spy service, carried out
the operations by setting up a Chinese translation service in Hawaii
that represented itself as a U.S.-origin company.
The ruse led to classified contracts with the Navy and NSA to translate
some of the hundreds of thousands of intercepted communications gathered
by NSA's network of listening posts, aircraft and ships.
NCIS agents discovered that the translation service, which officials did
not identify by name, had conducted contract work for the National
Security Agency facility at Kunia, an underground electronic
intelligence post some 15 miles northwest of Honolulu that conducts some
of the U.S. intelligence community's most sensitive work.
Kunia is both a processing center and a collection point for large
amounts of Chinese- and other Asian-language communications, which are
translated and used in classified intelligence reports on military and
Naval intelligence officials familiar with the Chinese spy penetration
said the access to both "raw" and analyzed intelligence at Kunia caused
significant damage by giving China's government details on both the
targets and the sources of U.S. spying operations. Such information
would permit the Chinese to block the eavesdropping or to provide false
and misleading "disinformation" to U.S. intelligence.
The officials did not say how long the Chinese operation lasted before
NCIS also discovered a major Chinese intelligence operation that sought
to recruit Chinese Americans as spies, and to recruit Navy and civilian
intelligence workers with access to Kunia's secrets.
According to the officials, China's program to recruit intelligence
workers was discovered in 2005 after a Navy cryptographic technician was
caught accepting a no-cost visit to China, paid for by Beijing's
The case led to an NCIS probe that discovered other intelligence
personnel, many of them nearing the ends of their careers, who were
targeted by Chinese intelligence for recruitment.
The ethnic recruitment effort involved similar tactics. China's
intelligence service used intelligence officers and supporters to
identify Chinese Americans with access to secrets who would be
approached and offered free visits to China, often to meet relatives.
The Chinese would then use the visit to attempt to recruit the Americans
Chinese-American ethnic groups in the past have denounced the U.S.
government for singling out Asian Americans as spy targets, accusing
counterintelligence officials of racism. But the Chinese recruitment
program shows that Beijing actively seeks to develop spies through such
NSA and NCIS spokesmen declined to comment when asked about the Chinese
intelligence-gathering operations in Hawaii.
I.C. Smith, a former FBI special agent, said both China's civilian MSS
and military spy service, known as "2 PLA" for the Second Department of
the Chinese military, are targeting NSA.
"There can be no higher target for an intelligence service, and that
includes China's MSS and 2 PLA, than gaining access to an adversaries'
codes and electronic intelligence," he said, because it is the ultimate
in "foreknowledge" advocated by ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu.
Getting U.S. electronic intelligence and codes would give China specific
information on what is known and allow Beijing to take defensive
measures "based on knowledge, not supposition," Mr. Smith said, adding
that "it also allows for disinformation to be done with confidence and
it basically gives the intelligence service every advantage over the
The NSA Hawaii operations center employs several thousand people and was
recently expanded at a cost of more than $350 million. An NSA press
release in August stated the expansion is "one facet of the agency's
efforts to evolve a global cryptologic enterprise that is resilient,
agile and effective in prosecuting a dynamic threat environment."
The facility was singled out for criticism in the past by intelligence
reform advocates because of its restrictive policies on
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