Chinese Spies could be in the Bay Area

February 12, 2008 12:02:29 AM PST
The Justice Department is describing what it calls "a relentless effort" by China to steal American military secrets.

Four people are facing charges-- accused of spying for China. They could represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg. "This morning, federal agents in southern California arrested an engineer. A former employee of Government contractors Rockwell and Boeing on charges of acting as a foreign agent of the People's Republic of China," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein.

In a second case in New Orleans, FBI agents arrested two Chinese nationals and an American weapons analyst, who is charged with selling classified information to them.

"It's a threat to our national security and to our economic position in the world," said Wainstein.

Former clandestine officer Nirmalya Bhomick runs the Henley-Putnam University in San Jose, a school for intelligence and counter-terrorism training. He says china is even hungrier for alternative energy secrets.

"And so any country that develops a technology, that will develop alternative energy, controls the economy," said Nirmalya Bhomick from Henley-Putnam University.

He says the U.S. is light years ahead of China, thanks to technological advances in the Bay Area.

"I can guarantee you it is a hotbed for espionage for the Chinese government," said Bhomick.

ABC7's Alan Wang: "The Bay Area?"

That is my personal opinion. Absolutely," said Bhomick.

But Jeremy Tamsett, an intelligence research analyst and author, says most of the information leaked out of the U.S. is legal.

"It's a very fine line, it's a gray area of espionage," said intelligence analyst Jeremy Tamsett.

He says it's not "spying" as much as it is "information gathering."

"They will tailor the message to that person and would say, 'please stay in contact with us, we would love to learn about what you're learning at Harvard," said Tamsett.

And because of this, corporate security in Silicon Valley is a top priority.

Tamsett says Chinese nationals and Silicon Valley companies should be aware of how the Chinese government uses its citizens to collect sensitive information.