A deportation officer with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a retired DHS law enforcement agent were among five people indicted on July 6 in a widening federal investigation over an alleged plan to hunt down Chinese dissidents in the United States.
“This case exposes attempts by the government of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to suppress dissenting voices within the United States,” Alan Kohler Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement. “Actions taken by the defendants–two of which are current or former federal law enforcement officers–demonstrate how the PRC seeks to stalk, intimidate, and silence those who oppose it.”
The Alleged PlotThe latest DOJ announcement revealed that Liu’s co-conspirators retained Taylor to obtain information on three dissidents, including their passport information, photos, and flight and immigration records. The DOJ didn't identify the three dissidents, but they likely include Liu and Chen.
“Liu, Ziburis, and Sun used this information to target and harass these U.S. residents while acting on behalf of the PRC government,” the DOJ stated.
To obtain information for Liu and his co-conspirators, Taylor first turned to a retired former depositions officer with DHS’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in 2021. The deposition officer accessed the restricted federal enforcement database and turned over information on at least one of the dissidents, including his birthday and visa status.
In a text conversation that took place on Nov. 10, 2021, one of Liu’s co-conspirators asked Taylor if he could obtain passport information on a dissident and his daughter.
“A client is willing to pay $800 for two passport numbers. Please let me know if you can help,” the co-conspirator wrote, according to the court document.
Six days later, Miller ran queries through the database using the two people’s names.
He eventually provided Taylor with individuals’ residences, flight records, and photographs, according to the court document. Taylor provided Miller with a gift card to “Wine & Times” as a thank you for his cooperation.
When confronted by FBI agents, Taylor and Miller initially lied—the former saying that he obtained some of the information on the dark web, while the latter said he hadn't been in “extensive contact” with Taylor since “relocating to Minnesota in 2015,” according to the court document.
Taylor was Miller’s boss from 2009 to 2011 while the DHS officer was stationed in Los Angeles, the court document states.
“We will defend the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views the PRC government wants to silence,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.
Miller and Taylor are charged with obstruction of justice, while Taylor is also charged with making a false statement to the FBI, the DOJ stated.
If convicted, Taylor faces up to 25 years in prison, while Miller faces up to 20 years, according to the DOJ.