Friday, March 22, 2013

Seeing Red

Click the arrow to watch the oversight hearing on YouTube.

The calendar listing stated simply, “Oversight Hearing.”

The 2½ hour grilling of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was a piling on of wild accusations, political self-interests, and finger-pointing for the consequences of sequestration while simultaneously demanding that the members' pet programs be exempted.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that allocates NASA funding, used the opportunity to grill Bolden 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” has not been reported to my knowledge.

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.

The Hampton Roads Daily Press reports that Jiang's lawyer might call Wolf as a witness under cross-examination to ask the Representative about what the attorney calls a “witch hunt.”

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-McLean, has linked Jiang to the congressman's contention that NASA has farmed out much of its work to contractors in order to circumvent federal restrictions on workers from China and certain other countries. Wolf has also connected Jiang to the possibility that Chinese workers were stealing NASA technology and sharing it with the Chinese military.

But Jiang's lawyer, Fernando Groene — a former federal prosecutor who now practices out of Williamsburg — said he's not going to let Wolf misportray Jiang. Groene briefly spoke to reporters after a federal court hearing Thursday in which Jiang's bond hearing was continued until next week.

When asked by a reporter if Jiang was going to plead not guilty to the charges next week, Groene answered with his own question: "To the witch hunt for which he's being made a scapegoat, or the (allegations) for which he's charged?"

Groene challenged Wolf to come to the trial in Newport News federal court to present his evidence against Jiang. "If Congressman Wolf wants to come down and testify against my client, we'll be glad to cross examine him," Groene said.

Asked why Jiang was going to China, Groene said, "He was going home."

Groene said Jiang had lost his job at the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton in January, for reasons that Groene said were not performance related.

I think most of us would agree that China is abundantly guilty of global technology theft, hacking computer systems to steal data and wage electronic warfare, and merrily violating copyright laws.

But I also have to wonder why the chair of an appropriations subcommittee is using his position to publicly accuse one Chinese individual. The Appropriations committee provides funds from the federal treasury to finance government activities previously approved by Congress. This matter would seem more appropriate for the House Committee on Science, or perhaps Judiciary or Foreign Affairs.

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