FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau is conducting more than 2,000 active investigations connected to the Chinese Communist Party.
Wray, who took over the FBI’s top spot in the wake of President Trump’s firing of James Comey, told Bret Baier of Special Report on Fox News that China is the greatest threat to the U.S. economy and its democratic principles, warning about the dangers posed by Chinese trade theft and espionage.
“There’s no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to America’s innovation, to our economic security, and to our democratic ideas than China does,” Wray said in an interview that aired Wednesday.
“The FBI has over 2,000 active investigations that trace back to the government in China,” Wray said, noting that they represent “about a 1300% increase in terms of economic espionage investigations with a Chinese nexus from about a decade ago.”
Wray also claimed the bureau is “opening a new counterintelligence investigation that ties back to China every 10 hours.”
The Justice Department has increased its scrutiny of China’s activities recently, starting the China Initiative in 2018 and prosecuting Chinese nationals in espionage cases, cracking down on hacking schemes, prosecuting efforts to steal trade secrets, and going after the Thousand Talents Program, including Harvard professor Charles Lieber.
Wray said the Chinese government is “pursuing a campaign of intellectual property theft, economic espionage, cyber intrusions that target businesses — big and small — all across the country, and our academic research institutions.” Wray added that Beijing operates “not just through traditional government officials, which they certainly do, but also through what we sometimes call nontraditional collectors — which can be businessmen, high-level scientists, high-level academics … all of whom are in different ways incentivized to steal American innovation and confidential information and take it back to China.”
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Sen. Rob Portman, released a 109-page bipartisan report in November concluding foreign countries “seek to exploit America’s openness to advance their own national interests” and “the most aggressive of them has been China.” It found China used its Thousand Talents Program, which seeks to recruit academics to gain access to proprietary information, for the past two decades to exploit access to U.S. research labs and academic institutions.
“This is not about the Chinese people or Chinese Americans,” Wray stressed on Wednesday. “This is about the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.”
The FBI director said, “Traditional espionage,” like “the old spy versus spy thing,” is “still very much a phenomenon in today’s world.” But he said the bureau is “much more focused in many ways on the economic espionage, which targets American businesses and hurts American jobs, American consumers” across a range of industries from “Fortune 100 companies to startups.”
An ongoing Education Department investigation has unearthed $1 billion in anonymous foreign funding on campuses nationwide and discovered a school with direct contracts with the Chinese Communist Party. U.S. colleges and universities have recently reported $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign funding from China and elsewhere.
When asked whether China was looking to take advantage of the protests that have swept the nation since the death of George Floyd in police custody, Wray said, “We are looking carefully at the prospect of foreign influence or foreign interference in all of the protests activity that has occurred over the last few weeks.”
Wray also said that FBI investigators “certainly have a role in looking into the origins of the coronavirus,” but he didn’t provide a clear update, noting that “at this point, there’s nothing to add to what the intelligence community has already said publicly on that” and “there’s still insufficient information to really know exactly how the virus emanated from Wuhan.”
A senior intelligence official told the Washington Examiner last month that a majority of the U.S. intelligence community’s 17 spy agencies believe the coronavirus likely originated with an accidental escape from a Chinese biolab rather than in a nearby wet market.
When asked about the possibility of Chinese election interference in 2020, Wray said China has “an interest in influencing our political thought — our policies — to try and shift them in a more friendly, pro-China, pro-Chinese Communist party direction,” and “sometimes that gets wrapped up in election issues.”
In March, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told lawmakers that the intelligence community had not concluded Russia is backing any particular 2020 candidate while warning about meddling from multiple countries. An unclassified fact sheet contended this is “not a Russia-only problem” as it warned that countries such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and China could also be looking to interfere too.
Author: Jerry Dunleavy
Source: Washington Examiner: FBI Director Wray says over 2,000 active investigations tied to China