By Kevin Poulsen
May 13, 2010
A Chinese national was convicted this week of smuggling and other
charges over his efforts to acquire sensitive military and
NSA-encryption gear from eBay and other internet sources.
Chi Tong Kuok, of Macau, told Defense Department and Customs
investigators that he had been "acting at the direction of officials for
the People's Republic of China, "according to a government affidavit in
the case. "Kuok indicated he and PRC officials sought the items to
figure out ways to listen to or monitor U.S. government and military
Kuok was arrested at the Atlanta International Airport last year en
route from Paris to Panama, where he planned to meet an undercover
federal agent he believed was going to provide him with military radios.
He was transferred to California and indicted (.pdf) for money
laundering, conspiracy, smuggling and one count of attempting to export
a defense article without a license. On Tuesday, a jury convicted him on
The U.S. began investigating Kuok in December 2006, when, using the
first of many aliases, the man e-mailed a contact in the defense
industry in search of software for a VDC-300 airborne data controller,
used for secure satellite communications from American military
The contact referred Kuok to an undercover agent in San Diego, who began
negotiating with Kuok over a shopping list of military technology that
eventually grew to at least 43 different items, ranging from a GPS
receiver with anti-spoofing defenses, to the NSA-developed AN/CYZ-10
crypto key management device.
Kuok repeatedly expressed fears that he might be dealing with an NSA,
CIA or FBI agent, but continued to negotiate with the undercover
officer, even cautioning him to avoid referencing the items by model
number in e-mail, because "your country has this system to analyze"
e-mail for keywords.
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