FBI’s Counterintelligence Division admits to slow response in China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property

During a testimony to the U.S. Senate, the FBI said it wished it had taken swifter action with regard to Chinese recruitment of U.S.-based researchers to transfer intellectual property from American laboratories.

The admission by John Brown, assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division at the FBI, backed up a Senate subcommittee report which concluded that federal agencies had responded too slowly to China’s recruitment of U.S.-based researchers, which ultimately resulted in U.S. taxpayers funding the growth of China’s economy and military.

“With our present-day knowledge of the threat from Chinese plans, we wish we had taken more rapid and comprehensive action in the past,” said Brown to a Senate subcommittee. “The time to make up for that is now.”

Although in 2008 China had announced its intention of hiring 2,000 people through its Thousand Talents Plan, but ended up hiring more than 7,000 people by 2017, the FBI did not respond strongly until 2018, said the report which was released by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The Trump Administration has confronted Beijing over its illicit methods to rapidly acquire technological advances, many of which form part of the ongoing trade war between the two countries.

The senators have pressed officials from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Department of Energy and State Department about steps that needed to be taken to counter China’s efforts to steal intellectual property.

“I hope very much that this is one of the first steps we take in developing a real national strategy in combating this because clearly China has a strategy, and we need one of our own,” said Senator Maggie Hassan.

Senators Rob Portman, the Republican subcommittee chairman, and Tom Carper, its top Democrat, have said they would capitalize on the report by writing legislation to end “this abuse” of U.S. research, intellectual property and taxpayer’s money.


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