U.S. federal agents arrested a Chinese scientist on Saturday for failing to declare various data storage devices, after he boarded a plane to Beijing.
The former NASA contractor, Bo Jiang, was fired by Langley Research Center last week, after the agency identified “a potential security breach” earlier in the month and referred it to law enforcement.
The FBI had just opened an investigation into whether Jiang had violated the Arms Export Control Act, when he was apprehended at Dulles International Airport, Washington-D.C., with a one-way ticket to China.
The arrest affidavit stated that Jiang had disclosed some items, such as his cellphone and computer, but a search revealed he was also carrying a second laptop, a SIM card, and a hard drive. He has been charged with lying to an investigator.
Senior lawmaker Rep. Frank Wolf, who oversees NASA’s funding, told a news conference Monday that he is concerned Jiang is a Chinese spy, and that he had access to the source code for NASA’s imaging technology used for space defense programs, as well as “unmanned aerial vehicles and other aerospace/aeronautic technologies.”
“This information could have significant military applications for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army,” Rep. Wolf said.
“Although we won’t know the nature of the information on the hard drives until the FBI fully reviews it, we know that Mr. Jiang has in the past taken sensitive information back to China that he should not have been allowed to remove from Langley.”
Wolf called for a comprehensive investigation, including more information on Chinese nationals working at U.S. research labs with access to sensitive data.
In a similar incident, a U.S. defense contractor in Hawaii was arrested last week for giving classified information to a Chinese woman with whom he was romantically involved, according to Reuters.