Wednesday, February 21, 2024

China’s Espionage Suspect Arrested For Allegedly Stealing US Nuclear Weapons Plan

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JAKARTA – Chenguang Gong, 57, from San Jose, California, was arrested on Tuesday 6 February on charges of stealing US nuclear secrets. He allegedly transferred more than 3,600 files containing a state-of-the-art infrared sensor design that detected missile launches.

The stolen information is said to be “worth hundreds of millions of dollars” and “would be dangerous for US national security if it was obtained by international players,” according to court documents.

Gong is a Chinese citizen who moved to the US around 1993 and became a citizen in 2011.

United States prosecutors for California’s Central District said Gong was “trying to provide information to the People’s Republic of China to help their military.”

Gong was released on a $2.5 million bail on Wednesday 7 February after being questioned in San Jose – he is due to return to court on February 20 and faces a 10-year federal prison sentence.

Although Gong has been released on bail, the US does not have an extradition treaty with China.

An afidavit released this week outlines the case of Gong, his suspected background, and his relationship with China. Gong’s photo was not released to the public.

The document mentions the former engineer’s workplace as a ‘victims Company,’ but Gong works atmarcal-based HRL Laboratories. HRL is a research and development laboratory specializing in sensors.

The Afidavit said Gong was hired in January 2023, tasked with developing and verifying infrared sensors. He was sacked on April 26, 2023.

Pamela Reese, director of marketing and communications for HRL Laboratories LLC, told “When HRL learned of any suspicious activity carried out by Gong, the company immediately started an investigation, ended a working relationship with him, and notified authorities of the matter.”

“HRL continues to work closely with the US Federal Bureau of Investigations in its case against Gong and will provide ongoing support as needed,”

According to afidavit, HRL has developed the Serrano Readout Integrated Circuit, which is a ‘integrated circuit that combines the search functionality and infrared tracking with infrared counter-infrared instruments into a single chip.’

‘Pintar. Integrated Circuit Serrano is capable of offering a high dynamic range (to trace threats in low visibility settings) and flight time capability (to analyze how quickly the threat approaches),’ reads the statement.

The company has also designed what it calls the Anaheim Readout Integrated Circuit, which combines several features to detect missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

Files allegedly stolen by Gong include designs for space-based systems that can detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles,’ according to the Justice Department.

The transfer is also said to include a’sensor design designed to allow US military aircraft to detect heat-seeking missiles approaching and taking preventive measures, including by undermining the infrared tracking capability of missiles.’

The government also noted that Gong had accepted other positions in other companies developing similar technologies – and allegedly stole more than 1,800 files.

United States Attorney Martin Estrada said: “We will do everything to protect the security of our country, including from foreign threats.”

We know that foreign actors, including PRC [Chinese People’s Republic], are actively trying to steal our technology, but we will remain vigilant against this threat by maintaining business innovation and American researchers,

During the investigation, the afidavit stated that the FBI found that, between around 2014 and 2022, while working at several major technology companies in the US, ‘Gong sent many applications to the’Talent Program’ managed by the government of the People’s Republic of China.’

Afidavit explained that ‘PRC has established a talent program through which it identifies individuals who are outside PRC who have skills, abilities, and expert knowledge that will help in changing PRC’s economy, including military capabilities.’

In 2014, while working at a Dallas-based information technology company, Gong sent a business proposal to contacts at China’s top technology research institute focused on military and civilian products, the afidavit claimed.

In his proposal, translated from Chinese, Gong describes plans to produce high-quality analog-digital converters similar to those produced by the company where he works, said the US Department of Justice.

The FBI conducted a search on May 8, 2023 to enter Gong’s residence in Thousand Oaks, California.

Authorities said they found “several digital devices containing hundreds of documents characterized as secrets or property belonging to information technology companies,” the afidavit claimed.

Gong is said to have submitted another Talent Program app in September 2020, which proposes developing a ‘low light/night vision’ image sensor for use in military night vision goggles and civilian apps.

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