Federal investigators believe spying networks are behind the 100-plus attempted entries by Chinese nationals into sensitive U.S. sites in recent years, a report Sunday set out.
The cases are reportedly many and varied, including people crossing into a U.S. missile range in New Mexico — and scuba divers swimming near a rocket launch site and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Wall Street Journal said quoting officials familiar with the allegations.
Drones to take detailed aerial footage of sensitive military sites have been seen— while the Pentagon confirmed cases of people “speeding through security checkpoints.”
The report comes after Chinese balloons were seen crossing U.S. territory earlier this year to the embarrassment of the Biden administration.
A common response by those stopped by officials is a claim to be confused and they often use what appears to be scripted language when confronted by security, the report said.
For example, individuals and groups often claim to be looking for hotels or a Burger King when challenged.
The Defense Department and FBI are among multiple federal agencies which shared a review last year on how to limit the attempts, which officials told the WSJ are viewed as a form of espionage.
Congress might also consider legislation, Rep. Jason Crow (D- Colo.) told the paper, to toughen up how security is handled at the sensitive sites, with trespassing laws currently being state and local, not federal.
Officials are warning about the potential use of giant Chinese-made and operated cranes as spy tools at U.S. ports. https://t.co/3LPn8BQ0Mi
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) March 6, 2023
“We need to work closely with our state and local partners to train them and equip them,” Crow said. “Right now, they don’t know how to deal with it.”
The incidents that occurred in rural areas where there is little tourism typically involved Chinese nationals who were pressed into service and required to report back to the Chinese government, the report added.
“The advantage the Chinese have is they are willing to throw people at [intelligence] collection in large numbers,” said Emily Harding, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former deputy staff director at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
In many of these cases, officials told the WSJ, those who have been found trespassing on bases have been briefly detained and then escorted out of the country.
No cases appear to have resulted in espionage charges, the paper said.
Sensors from the first suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down over the U.S. have been recovered from the Atlantic Ocean amongst other “significant debris,” the U.S. military announced late Monday. https://t.co/2gDex6L0qA
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Still, the Chinese embassy in Washington is denying any espionage efforts and responded with equal measures of surprise and indignation at the accusations.
“The relevant claims are purely ill-intentioned fabrications,” spokesperson Liu Pengyu told the WSJ.
“We urge the relevant U.S. officials to abandon the Cold War mentality, stop groundless accusations, and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust between the two countries and friendship between the two peoples.”