Spy school: Chinese military officer busted for posing as Boston University student || Washington Times
“A female Chinese military officer was charged with spying while posing as a student at Boston University, but was able to flee the country after FBI agents interviewed her about her links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
PLA Lt. Ye Yanqing was indicted in a separate criminal case involving Dr. Charles Lieber, chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department, who was arrested on Tuesday and charged with lying about receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the Wuhan University of Technology and lying to the Pentagon about the foreign money.
The involvement of Lt. Ye and two other senior PLA officers highlights the Chinese military’s involvement in Beijing’s large-scale program of recruiting foreign specialists.
A third Chinese national who was arrested last month, Zheng Zhaosong, was indicted for attempting to smuggle biological research samples while working as a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Lt. Ye falsely stated in visa documents that she was a student and did not disclose her active-duty PLA position, according to court papers. She was charged with acting as a foreign government agent, visa fraud, making false statements to investigators and conspiracy.
Investigators say Lt. Ye was under control of “senior leaders of the PLA while conducting research at Boston University pursuant to a J-1 non-immigrant visa.” Those leaders include one colonel and a second lower-ranking officer who were professors at China’s National University of Defense Technology in Harbin, China.
Lt. Ye was tasked by the PLA to gather intelligence on U.S. military websites and send documents and information back to China. The indictment said Lt. Ye also lied on her visa application when she denied engaging in espionage, sabotage and export control violations in the United States.”
FBI corruption probe of L.A. City Hall focuses on downtown development boom
|| LA Times
“The rapid transformation of downtown Los Angeles’ skyline is being fueled in good measure by huge investments from Chinese companies eager to burnish their global brands and capitalize on L.A.’s real estate boom.
The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times this weekend, sheds new light on the investigation and shows federal investigators are seeking records related not only to Huizar but also other City Hall officials, including Councilman Curren Price and current or former aides to Huizar, Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti.”
Now some of those projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall.
Federal investigators have cast a wide net for information about foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate development, according to a search warrant that names an array of political and business figures.
Among those named are executives of Chinese firms bankrolling two ambitious downtown projects that would result in three new towers on Figueroa Street. Investigators are also seeking records about L.A. development projects involving other foreign investors, including firms with large-scale hotel and residential projects in downtown.
The warrant does not say the FBI has gathered evidence of criminal activity by any of the people or companies named in the document. No one has been arrested or charged in the investigation.
The federal investigation became public in November, when FBI agents descended on the home and offices of L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the vast majority of downtown. Since then, The Times has reported that investigators have sought records involving a longtime lobbyist and a fundraiser close to City Hall.
The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times this weekend, sheds new light on the investigation and shows federal investigators are seeking records related not only to Huizar but also other City Hall officials, including Councilman Curren Price and current or former aides to Huizar, Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Until recently, Huizar headed the powerful council committee that vets development projects. Price, in turn, heads a council committee focused on economic development, which reviews taxpayer subsidies offered by the city to hotel developers in and around downtown.
The warrant is not the only sign of FBI interest in L.A. development.
In recent months, real estate developers with projects in Huizar’s downtown-to-Eagle Rock district have received federal grand jury subpoenas instructing them to turn over communications with the councilman and dozens of current and former Huizar staffers since 2013, according to two sources familiar with the FBI’s instructions.
Those developers also have been told to provide information on any contributions they have made to Huizar’s reelection bid, his officeholder committee, any legal defense fund or his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School, the sources said. The subpoenas seek information on any donations made to two political committees with ties to Huizar — Community Support PAC and Families for a Better Los Angeles.
Developers in Huizar’s district also have been instructed to provide information on any gifts, meals, trips, vacations, flights, event tickets or rounds of golf they have provided to Huizar, his staff or any other council member, the sources said.
Among the information sought in the warrant were records related to trips to Las Vegas and stays at four hotels, including the Palazzo and Caesars Palace. The document does not explain why investigators want them.
Depending on where it goes, the FBI investigation could spur Angelenos to demand reforms of real estate development and campaign contributions and gifts at City Hall, said Kathy Feng, who was until recently the head of California Common Cause, a watchdog group that monitors ethics and money in politics.
“People already have a level of skepticism about how City Hall decisions are made around major development projects,” she said.
In the warrant, agents sought information from Google about a Gmail account tied to Ray Chan, a former deputy mayor for economic development for Garcetti who once headed the city building department and has worked since then as a consultant. Agents said they were looking for evidence related to an investigation into bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes that could involve more than a dozen people.
Among those named were two executives linked to Shenzhen New World Group, a Chinese company that has unveiled plans to redevelop the L.A. Grand Hotel downtown with a 77-story tower and build a 31-story hotel near Universal Studios.
The Times was unable to reach Wei Huang, president of Shenzhen New World Group, and Ricky Zheng, who was identified in state campaign contribution records as a Shenzhen New World LLC executive. Besides evidence of any possible crimes involving the two men, the federal warrant sought records relating to Shenzhen New World Group and two of its hotels.
The warrant, first reported by George Washington University counterterrorism expert Seamus Hughes, also named Fuer Yuan, founder of another company called Shenzhen Hazens. In 2017, the City Council approved a Shenzhen Hazens project on Figueroa Street, allowing the developer to demolish the nine-story Luxe City Center Hotel and replace it with two skyscrapers, one for a hotel, the other for condominiums.
As part of the approval process, the developer signed an agreement to contribute to initiatives long backed by Huizar, including $750,000 to support a planned downtown streetcar and $550,000 to the effort to revitalize the Broadway corridor.
Investigators asked in the warrant about the Luxe Hotel and George Chiang, who city records indicate was involved with the skyscraper project. David Chaiken, a company attorney, told The Times that Shenzhen Hazens was unable to share any information about its activities or the investigation.
Here, The Post’s Larry Getlen details the book’s revelations on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, ex-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and others:
In 2004, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, current US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had an average net worth of $3.1 million. Ten years later, that number had increased to somewhere between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.
One source of the windfall, according to a new book from Peter Schweizer, was a 2008 gift from Chao’s father, James Chao, for somewhere between $5 million and $25 million. But this gift could be seen as more than just a gift. It may have been acquired, according to Schweizer, thanks to the couple’s fealty to China, the source of the Chao family fortune. And that fealty may have occurred at the expense of the nation they had pledged to serve.
“Secret Empires,” the new book from the “Clinton Cash” and “Throw Them All Out” author, details myriad examples of corruption from members of both major political parties. Rather than focusing on direct forms of corruption, such as bribes, Schweizer hones in on the more indirect graft of the modern era.
Rather than risk their careers taking bribes for potentially minuscule rewards, Schweizer points out how today’s politicians are savvier, engaging in what he calls “corruption by proxy.”
While politicians and their spouses are often subject to rigid regulations on what gifts they can accept and what sort of business they can conduct, others around them — like their friends or children have no such obstacles. So while a politician could theoretically wind up in prison for accepting $10,000 for doling out favors, establishing overseas connections that could land your children multi-million-dollar deals is harder to detect, and often legal.
“Foreign governments and oligarchs like this form of corruption because it gives them private and unfettered gateways to the corridors of Washington power,” Schweizer writes. “Foreign entities cannot legally make campaign contributions, so using this approach creates an alternative way to curry favor and influence America’s political leaders. Simply camouflaging these transactions as business agreements provides another shield of plausible deniability.”
As Schweizer tells it, the Chao family fortune derives from the Foremost Group, a shipping company that Chinese native James Chao, a classmate of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin at Jiao Tong University, founded in New York in 1964. Chao remains Foremost’s chairman today, and his daughters Angela and Christine are the company’s deputy chairwoman and general counsel, respectively. Elaine Chao worked there in the 1970s, and has been quoted as saying, “Shipping is our family tradition.”
The success of Foremost is largely due to its close ties to the Chinese government, in particular the China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC), a corporation with which Foremost has done “large volumes of business.”
The CSSC, Schweizer writes, is “a state-owned defense conglomerate … at the heart of the Chinese government’s military-industrial complex.” The main goal of the CSSC is to strengthen the Chinese military. James and Angela Chao have both sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.
While Foremost is an American company, “their ships have been constructed by Chinese government shipyards, and some of their construction financed by the Chinese government.” In addition, writes Schweizer, “their crews are largely Chinese,” despite US Transportation Secretary and company founder’s daughter Elaine Chao having once said that “ships crewed by Americans are ‘a vital part of our national security.’”
Given all this, it’s worth noting how both McConnell and Chao, in their roles as high-ranking US officials, have personally interacted with, and then gone considerably soft on, China since their 1993 wedding.
When Senator McConnell — who took hardline positions against China prior to his marriage — met with high-ranking Chinese officials in 1994, it was not in his capacity as senator, but via a personal invitation from the CSSC arranged by James Chao. McConnell met with Zemin, then the country’s president, and vice-premiere Li Lanqing. After this meeting, McConnell “would increasingly avoid public criticism of China.” More meetings like it would follow in the years to come.
“As the Chaos and the Chinese government went into business together, the Chaos-McConnells tied their economic fate to the good fortunes of Beijing,” Schweizer writes. “Were McConnell to critique Beijing aggressively or support policies damaging to Chinese interests, Beijing could severely damage the family’s economic fortunes.”
In the ensuing years, McConnell has loudly defended China in its actions against Hong Kong and Taiwan, even claiming that “the United States needed to be ‘ambiguous’ as to whether we would come to the defense of Taiwan if attacked by China.” When Sen. Jesse Helms introduced the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, pledging support for Taiwanese independence, in 1999, it had “twenty-one co-sponsors and heavy Republican support. But McConnell was not on the list.”
When Congress required China to document annual progress on human rights in order to maintain its trade status in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, ditching the requirement became a priority for the country. In 2000, “McConnell cosponsored S.2277, which would do just that.”
McConnell also fought attempts to punish China for vigorously undervaluing its currency, a tactic that led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option, changing Senate rules on voting. The bill passed, 63-35, with McConnell voting against.
Chao has also done her part to support her ancestral home.
When she served as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, her department resisted efforts to “call out the Chinese government over its workers rights practices.” When a petition was filed against China on the subject of worker’s rights based on the US Trade Act of 1974, Chao opposed it.
After a bipartisan congressional report citing Chinese espionage against the US circulated in 2000, Chao “was critical of the report,” making clear she “in no way” agreed with its findings, and, Schweizer writes, “dismiss[ing] the idea that China could pose any threat to the United States.”
Democratic IT Staffer Arrested On Fraud Charge Has Family Links To SoCal Lawmakers
|| CBS TV Los Angeles
“LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Family members of a staffer for the former Democratic National Committee chair who was arrested this week while attempting to leave the U.S. for Pakistan once worked for several Southern California congressional offices.
Imran Awan was fired Tuesday by Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the same day he pleaded not guilty to a bank fraud charge in connection with a $165,000 home equity loan, authorities said.
His brother Abid Awan, was employed earlier this year by Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu, Tony Cardenas, and nearly 30 more House Democrats as a “shared employee”, according to Legistorm, a website that tracks congressional employment.
March 10 was the most recent end date for Awan’s employment under both Lieu and Cardenas, records show.
Lieu made headline in February for releasing a “how to” guide to help members of the Trump administration leak information to the media.”
“Last year, eight members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a demand that their staffers be granted access to top secret classified information.
The signatories to the letter were Andre Carson, Luis Guiterez, Jim Himes, Terri Sewell, Jackie Speier, Mike Quigley, Eric Swalwell and Patrick Murphy. All the signatories were Democrats. Some had a history of attempting to undermine national security.
Two of them have been linked to an emerging security breach.
The office of Andre Carson, the second Muslim in Congress, had employed Imran Awan. As did the offices of Jackie Speier and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; to whom the letter had been addressed.
Imran Awan and his two brothers, Jamal and Abid, are at the center of an investigation that deals with, among other things, allegations of illegal access. They have been barred from the House of Representatives network.
A member of Congress expressed concern that, “they may have stolen data from us.”
All three of the Pakistani brothers had been employed by Democrats. The offices that employed them included HPSCI minority members Speier, Carson and Joaquín Castro. Congressman Castro, who also sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, utilized the services of Jamal Moiz Awan. Speier and Carson’s offices utilized Imran Awan.
Abid A. Awan was employed by Lois Frankel and Ted Lieu: members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also on the committee is Castro. As is Robin Kelly whose office employed Jamal Awan. Lieu also sits on the subcommittees on National Security and Information Technology of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.”
California Swamp: CA Democrat House Members Hired Muslim Brotherhood Awan Brothers
|| Canada Free Press
“In post—9/11 America, “If you see something, say something” has become the unofficial slogan of the Department of Homeland Security, with the idea of enlisting American citizens to help identify real terrorism threats. Yet California Democrats in Congress apparently ignored this advisory with their silence, support and promotion of possible terrorists in their own workplace.
The Congressional hacking suspects—the Pakistani born Awan brothers—ran the Information Technology (IT) for dozens of Democrat congressmen and women, and could read every email and communication sent or received. Members of the California Democrat House delegation also hired the Awan brothers, along with nearly 30 more House Democrats as a “shared employee,” according to Legistorm.
In fact, the hackers appear to have had access to some of the most sensitive classified information provided to members of several intelligence oversight committees. As “shared” employees, their salaries were cobbled together with part-time payments from multiple members, on an estimated 80 House Democrats’ payrolls, the Daily Caller reported.
The California members of the House who hired the Awan Brothers (past and present), and what they paid the Awans include:
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA 16) = $161,896
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA14) = $136,897
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Formerly D-CA34, currently California Attorney General) = $130,811
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA37) = $106,664
Rep. Henry Waxman (Former D-CA 33) = $85,552
Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA 29) = $73,917
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA 41) = $42,057
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA26) = $79,504
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA31) = $35,415
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA33) = $16,456
“March 10 was the most recent end date for Awan’s employment under both Lieu and Cardenas, records show.” CBS Los Angeles reported.
Ironically, Rep. Ted Lieu is something of an IT whiz kid, according to his Congressional bio: “As one of only four computer science majors currently serving in Congress, and as a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Information Technology, Ted is frequently sought out for his insight on technology and innovation matters including cybersecurity, cloud computing and innovation as well as the sharing and creative economy.”
It’s a darn shame Ted Lieu wasn’t sought out for his insight on cybersecurity in the House.
While Imran Awan ran technology for multiple House Democrats, he soon brought in four of his relatives—including brothers Abid and Jamal. The Awan family members appeared on the payroll of dozens of other members, collecting $4 million in taxpayer funds since 2010, the Daily Caller reported:”
North Korea’s nuclear test site at risk of imploding, Chinese scientist says
|| South China Morning Post
If mountain under which last five bombs were ‘almost certainly’ detonated crumbles, radiation would leak across region, expert warns
“The single mountain under which North Korea most likely conducted its five most recent nuclear bomb tests, including the latest and most powerful on Sunday, could be at risk of collapsing, a Chinese scientist said.
By measuring and analysing the shock waves caused by the blasts, and picked up by quake stations in China and neighbouring countries, researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, said they were confident that they were all carried out from under the same mountain at the Punggye-ri test site.
The team from the seismic and deep earth physics laboratory made the claim in a statement posted on their website on Monday. Its leader, geophysicist Wen Lianxing, said that based on data collected by more than 100 earthquake monitoring centres in China, the margin of error was no more than 100 metres.
Wang Naiyan, the former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons programme, said that if Wen’s findings were reliable, there was a risk of a major environmental disaster.
Another test might cause the whole mountain to cave in on itself, leaving only a hole from which radiation could escape and drift across the region, including China, he said.
“We call it ‘taking the roof off’. If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things.”
Sunday’s blast was followed by an earthquake eight minutes later, which China’s seismic authorities interpreted as a cave-in triggered by the explosion.”
Despite 15 years of Western Occupation, Afghanistan’s Opium Production has only Gone up
|| Business Insider
“After 15 years of war in Afghanistan, the government there and its allies from the US and elsewhere have had little success staunching the flow of opium and heroin out of the South Asian country.
According to recent data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 10% in 2016, reaching an estimated 201,000 hectares, or about 496,000 acres.
A number of factors have played into the uptick in cultivation, like widespread insecurity and ineffective government oversight.
And while production has remained high but steady in southern Afghanistan — a stronghold for the Afghan Taliban — the northern and eastern parts of the country have seen recent increases in cultivation as well.”
5 Elite American Families Who Made Their Fortunes in the Opium Trade
“There’s a lot of money in the dope business, and there always has been. Prohibit something people want–sometimes very desperately–and someone will find a way to get it to them anyway–at a price. That’s a lesson in futility, as some American politicians seem to be finally figuring out with our current drug prohibition, and as China’s emperors found out when they attempted to ban the importation of opium into the Middle Kingdom in the early 19th Century.
Backed by their own governments, Western traders ignored Chinese concerns and demands, flooding the country with opium. When necessary, they enlisted their governments to back them up with military force, humiliating and humbling the empire, and getting rich in the process. Most of these traders were British, but a significant number were American, and the profits they made were the cornerstone of some of 19th Century America’s greatest fortunes.
Right now, other merchants are making fortunes in the same business. If they get caught, they lose everything. But if they don’t, there’s nothing like time and money to wash the dirt off their fortunes.
Here are five prominent American families that got rich in the Chinese opium trade:
1 .The Astor Family. America’s first multimillionaire, John Jacobs Astor, joined the opium smuggling trade in 1816 when his American Fur Company bought 10 tons of Turkish opium and smuggled it into Canton. Seeking other sources of profit while faced with woes in the fur trade, he became the first American known to have entered the contraband Chinese opium trade and made a nice profit before abruptly exiting the business three years later.
2. The Forbes Family. John Murray Forbes and Robert Bennet Forbes worked for Perkins & Co. in its China trade. While the former’s main job was to secure quality tea for export, that latter was more intimately involved in the importing size of the business and had more of a direct role in the opium trade. Their father, Ralph Forbes, had married into the Perkins family. It was the brothers’ activities in the 1830s and 1840s that led to the Forbes family’s accumulated wealth. The most notable family member on the contemporary scene is US Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry. The Forbes legacy in the China opium trade lived on in the Museum of the American China Trade in Milton, Massachusetts, which was housed in Robert Bennet Forbes’ 1883 Greek Revival-style home. That museum merged with the Peabody Essex Museum in 1984, leaving what is now known as the Captain Forbes House Museum.
3. The Russell Family. Samuel Wadsworth Russell started as an orphaned apprentice to a maritime trade merchant, made his initial investment capital on trading commissions while working for other traders, and eventually founded Russell and Co., the most powerful American merchant house in China for most of the second half of the 19th Century. He landed in Canton in 1819 and quickly amassed a fortune in the opium trade. His mansion, now known as the Samuel Wadsworth Russell House, still stands in Middletown, Connecticut. Russell’s cousin and fellow opium trader, William Huntington Russell, was a co-founder and funder of Yale University’s Skull and Bones Society.
4. The Delano Family.Warren Delano, Jr., the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was chief of operations for Russell & Co., another Boston trading firm which did big business in the China opium trade in Canton. He first went to China at age 24 and spent a decade dealing dope on the Pearl River before returning to New York as a newly wealthy and very eligible bachelor. He admitted in letters home that opium had an “unhappy effect” on its users, but argued that its sale was “fair, honorable, and legitimate,” akin to importing wine and spirits to America. Delano lost his fortune in the Great Panic of 1857, but returned to China and rebuilt it in part by supplying the US military with opium to treat Union soldiers in the Civil War. The Delanos don’t like to talk about the opium connection much. As FDR biographer Geoffrey C. Ward noted, “In a family fond of retelling and embellishing even the mildest sort of ancestral adventuresno stories seem to have been handed down concerning Warren Delano’s genuinely adventurous career in the opium business.”
5. The Perkins Family. Thomas Handasyd Perkins, a wealthy merchant and Boston Brahmin par excellance, made his bones as a young man trading slaves in Haiti, then peddled furs to China from the American Northwest before amassing a huge fortune smuggling Turkish opium into China. Although he got rich off the trade, he avoided mentioning it, and his official biography, written by his son-in-law, never mentions the word “opium.” Perkins assuaged himself through philanthropy, supporting the Boston Atheneum and the New England Institute for the Blind, which was renamed for him. The town of Belmont, Massachusetts, is named after the estate of nephew, John Perkins Cushing, who was active in the trade himself.”