Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents

Source: FP

The number of informants executed in the debacle is higher than initially thought.

BY ZACH DORFMAN | AUGUST 15, 2018

Illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite for Foreign Policy

It was considered one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically dismantled the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.

How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?

Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.

“The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable,” said one of the officials who, like the others, declined to be named discussing sensitive information. The former official described the attitude of those in the agency who worked on China at the time as “invincible.”

Other factors played a role as well, including China’s alleged recruitment of former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee around the same time. Federal prosecutors indicted Lee earlier this year in connection with the affair.

But the penetration of the communication system seems to account for the speed and accuracy with which Chinese authorities moved against the CIA’s China-based assets.

“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing. The Ministry of State Security [which handles both foreign intelligence and domestic security] were always pulling in the right people,” one of the officials said.

“When things started going bad, they went bad fast.”

The former officials also said the real number of CIA assets and those in their orbit executed by China during the two-year period was around 30, though some sources spoke of higher figures. The New York Times, which first reported the story last year, put the number at “more than a dozen.” All the CIA assets detained by Chinese intelligence around this time were eventually killed, the former officials said.

The CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency declined to comment for this story. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

At first, U.S. intelligence officials were “shellshocked,” said one former official. Eventually, rescue operations were mounted, and several sources managed to make their way out of China.

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Source: Newsweek

How Israel Used Weapons and Technology to Become an Ally of China

By Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot • May , 2017

Israeli Brigadier General Eli Sharvit, left, welcomes Chinese Rear Admiral Yang Jun-Fei in Haifa, Israel, in 2012. Credit: Israel Defense Forces

The secret, circuitous journey began late one night in February 1979 when an unmarked Boeing 707 took off from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Roughly 15 hours later, after a stop in the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat and a refueling break in Kolkata, India, the plane landed in Guangzhou, China, where a group of German-speaking Chinese navigators boarded the aircraft for its fourth and final journey—to a sealed-off military base on the outskirts of Beijing. There, they went to a nearby compound.

The “foreigners”—as the Chinese referred to the group aboard—barely spoke to one another, assuming Chinese officials had bugged the cabins. If there was something important to discuss, they went out into the cold, polluted night. The Chinese thought the group consisted of foreign businessmen who had connections with several leading international defense companies, including some from Israel. But that was just a cover. In reality, the delegation included Gabriel Gidor, the CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries, the leading government-owned defense company, along with senior representatives from the Israeli foreign and defense ministries.

The Israelis were just as confused about whom they were dealing with. “Were they engineers? Intelligence operatives? Military officers?” recalled one member of the Israeli delegation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal details of the trip. “They all wore these ‘Mao Suits’ tunics. We had no way of knowing who we were even talking to.”

Please go to Newsweek to read this entire article.
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