When it Comes to Espionage

Harvard's Dr. Lieber is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

From Chesley Brown International

By Dell Spry

Renowned Harvard Professor Arrested for Lying About Connection to China.

Feb 5th, 2020


How could a brilliant Harvard professor become the subject of an espionage case involving his alleged spying on behalf of the Chinese government?

According to multiple news reports, Charles Lieber, chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard, is accused of hiding his involvement in China's Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed to lure people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China.

I do not know if Dr. Lieber is guilty or not. I do not know what his intentions were. In the world of academia and research, the lines can become blurred. On the one hand it only makes sense that the results of research be openly shared so greater strides and advancements in medicine, disease prevention and cure, nanotechnology, acoustics, crop production, the list goes on, can be made. The bright line that should not be crossed is when the information that flows from that research is the lifeblood of a company who has ownership of the research and the results such that their products represent the latest innovations with cutting edge performance available on the market. That is a good thing.

I do know this. Dr. Lieber involved himself with the Chinese Thousand Talents Plan, so we need to examine what that plan involves. According to the Chinese TTP website, the purpose of the Thousand Talents Plan is to recruit talent by utilizing six programs; the Recruitment Program for Innovative Talents (Long Term), the Recruitment Program for Entrepreneurs, the Recruitment Program for Young Professionals, the Innovative Talents Recruitment Program (Short Term), the Recruitment Program for Foreign Experts, and the Recruitment Program for Top Notch Talent and Teams.

Dr. Lieber was most likely recruited as part of the Foreign Experts program. While on its face the Thousand Talents Plan seems like a benign business model any head hunting company might use, the Chinese government uses the plan to lure people into committing espionage. According to an October 16, 2018 article in the ​Vision Times,​ “At the height of the U.S.-China trade war, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation began to comprehensively investigate China’s Thousand Talents Program in order to prevent the release of advanced technology. China’s Thousand Talents Program was established in 2008 with the stated aim being to bring top-notch professionals from all parts of the world to work in China,

contributing to the growth and success of the Chinese society. But as the FBI conducted their investigation, colleges and universities in China began to comprehensively delete any details and information about the program along with data on related personnel. S​ ince its implementation in December 2008, the Thousand Talents Program has recruited 8,000 overseas experts. In June of this year, U.S. defense and intelligence officials made it clear at the hearing of the House of Representatives Military Committee that the Chinese government was aiming to transfer American technology, intellectual property, and knowledge to the mainland by attracting overseas talents. On October 4, a letter from the “Thousand Talents Youth Program Review Working Group '' was posted on the Internet. The content shows that units were cautioned that in order to ́ 'do well' ' with the safety and security of overseas talents, there should be no use of email when notifying the interviewees. Instead, communication should take place by telephone or fax. The date on the letter was September 29. A screenshot from the notice on WeChat showed that the Ministry of Education issued an urgent notice requesting all colleges and universities to delete all information about the Thousand Talents Program on the website to ensure the total disappearance of the program.”

The Thousand Talents Program has been on the FBI’s radar for quite some time. Director Wray has been very public about his concerns, and still people fall prey or simply agree to be part of a Chinese intelligence collection initiative directed against the United States. Perhaps Dr. Lieber will offer the argument he was an unknowing, unwitting agent of a foreign power. In my opinion the amount of compensation he received from the Chinese government when he completed the reporting requirements given to him argue against that.

It did not begin with Dr. Lieber. It will not end with Dr. Lieber. The stakes for the United States are high. Right now we seem to hold the cards. But we don’t know what we don’t know. And there are many more Dr. Liebers still to come.

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