China taps into U.S. spy operations

China taps into U.S. spy operations
China taps into U.S. spy operations 

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 
political developments.

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 
being detected.

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 
as spies.

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 
ethnic targeting.

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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