Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crying Wolf

Click the arrow to watch the March 22 oversight hearing on YouTube.

On March 22 I wrote about wild accusations made by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) as he grilled NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a 2½ hour hearing.

Wolf was the author of 2010 legislation which forbade NASA from having any contact with China. Since then, Wolf and Bolden have sparred over the law's language and intrepretation. According to one online post, Wolf claimed in 1995 that Chinese hospitals were selling human fetuses as health food.

Bolden was grilled about the arrest of a Chinese national who worked for a NASA contractor. Bo Jiang worked for the National Institute of Aerospace. He was arrested at Dulles Airport for not declaring all the electronics he was carrying with him; according to media reports, an affidavit stated Jiang had previously taken to China a laptop with “sensitive information,” although what was “sensitive” was not reported.

Jiang was ordered released by a judge on March 28. According to the Virginian-Pilot:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leonard ordered Jiang released after a federal prosecutor acknowledged there is no evidence so far that he possessed any sensitive, secret or classified material.

But now we know what really was on the laptop in March.

Business Week reports that Jiang “unlawfully downloaded copyrighted movies and sexually explicit films onto his NASA laptop.”

Not exactly the Chinese spy Wolf claimed he was.

Has Wolf apologized to Jiang or Bolden?

According to Business Week, when contacted by the reporter Wolf's representative said the Congressman had no comment.

While Business Week ran its story based on the facts of the case, a partisan paper called the Washington Examiner spun a different tale.

Former NASA contractor employee Bo Jiang, arrested last March by federal agents as he was about to board a flight to Beijing, took vast amounts of sensitive research by a noted colleague to China in 2012, The Washington Examiner has learned.

The source for the Examiner story was anonymous — “A NASA Langley executive with first-hand knowledge of the Jiang case.”

The Examiner did not mention what was really on the laptop when Jiang was arrested in March, or that a plea deal had been reached.

According to Wikipedia, the Examiner is owned by Philip Anschutz and is considered an outlet for his conservative partisan views. The Examiner is published in Springfield, Virginia, about 20 miles from Wolf's district office in Herndon.

I'm registered non-partisan. I've worked part-time in politics for many years, for politicians of both partisan stripes. I know how one goes about planting a story in the media for political purposes (having done it myself).

My guess is that the Examiner story ran with its anonymous source to give Wolf a fig-leaf for his political embarrassment. The Examiner will be cited, quoted and recycled throughout conservative media such as this March 20 Fox News article claiming that “allegations swirled of foreign spies within the space agency,” while in the reality-based world Jiang will take his plea deal for having porn on his government-issue laptop computer, and head home to China.

In the next few months, watch for China-phobes like Wolf, Space Coast Rep. Bill Posey and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to cite the Examiner article as further proof that Bolden and the Obama administration are “soft” on China.

UPDATE May 2, 2013The Virginian-Pilot reports that Jiang “pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count of misusing government office equipment and was sentenced to time served — about eight weeks.”

Jiang had been in custody since March 16, when he was stopped while preparing to board a China-bound flight at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. He was charged with providing false statements to the investigators who searched his baggage because he failed to fully disclose all of the electronic gear he was carrying with him.

The investigation was prompted by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Fairfax County, who publicly identified Jiang as a potential security threat after whistleblowers at NASA-Langley told him Jiang had been permitted to take a NASA-owned laptop computer with him on a visit to China last fall.

Taking the NASA computer without prior written approval was a violation of NASA security regulations, according to a statement of facts put into evidence today — a breach that resulted in the termination of Jiang’s employment with the National Institute of Aerospace, a Hampton-based NASA contractor, in January.

However, “the United States has no evidence that Jiang was ever put on notice of that specific prohibition,” according to the statement.

Moreover, analysis of the NASA laptop established that it contained no classified information, nor did any of the electronic equipment Jiang was carrying with him in March.

In his plea agreement, Jiang acknowledged violating a NASA regulation governing use of government office equipment by downloading copyrighted movies, television shows and sexually explicit images onto the NASA-owned laptop.

Bloomberg News reports that Rep. Wolf fingered Jiang as a security risk during a March 13 public hearing, even though no charges had been brought. The same day that Wolf made the allegation, the FBI opened its investigation.

The open question in my mind now is, did the FBI investigate Jiang and arrest him due to political pressure brought by Wolf?

Hopefully an investigative reporter will start digging into this.

UPDATE May 3, 2013 — Today's articles on Bo Jiang's release.

Business Week “Chinese Spy Suspect Pleads Guilty to Violating Computer Porn Ban”

Hampton Roads Daily-Press “Chinese Scientist Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor”

Huffington Post “Accused Nasa Chinese Spy Bo Jiang's Laptop Full Of Porn But Not Government Secrets”

Washington Examiner “Former NASA Contractor Agrees to Deportation”

WAVY “Court: Chinese National Didn't Lie to Feds”

Click the arrow to watch the WAVY TV news report. You may be subjected to an ad first.

WTKR “Court Documents: Felony Charges Dropped Against Former NASA Contractor”

Click the arrow to watch the WTKR TV news report. You may be subjected to an ad first.

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