A Chinese immigrant, naturalized as an American national in 2008, and serving in a sensitive post in the US Navy has been arrested for spying for China, the United States Naval Institute has revealed.
Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, who served on some of the Navy’s most sensitive intelligence gathering aircraft, faces several counts of espionage and other charges outlined during a recent hearing in Norfolk, Va., USNI News reported.
Lin, originally a Taiwanese national before his family moved to the US, had a career as a signals intelligence specialist on the Navy’s Lockheed Martin EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance aircraft.
Several sources familiar with the case told USNI News the country to which Lin passed secrets was China, however, few other details are known about the case given much of the evidence is classified.
The redacted charging documents say Lin allegedly transported secret information out of the country without permission and then lied about his whereabouts when he returned to duty. The charging documents allege he successfully committed espionage twice and attempted espionage on three other occasions.
A redacted Navy charge sheet said the suspect was assigned to the headquarters for the Navy’s Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, which oversees intelligence collection activities.
It accused him twice of communicating secret information and three times of attempting to do so to a representative of a foreign government “with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the advantage of a foreign nation.”
In addition to the accusations related to transmitting secrets to a foreign power, Lin was also accused of violating military law by patronizing prostitutes and committing adultery.
Lin has been held in pre-trial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, Va., for the last eight months.
Lin speaks fluent Mandarin and managed the collection of electronic signals from the EP3-E Aries II signals intelligence aircraft.
Lin’s job on the Aries II, which bears a resemblance to the maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare P-3C Orion, was to manage the collection of electronic signals from the aircraft—a central coordinator.
The specifics of how the US gathers signals from potential adversaries are among the military’s most closely guarded secrets. Knowing the methodology for how the US gathers signals intelligence—information that Lin would likely have with his Aries II experience—could allow adversaries to devise ways to counter US monitoring.
In addition to his time on EP-3Es, Lin served from 2012 to 2014 as the Congressional Liaison for the Assistant Secretary of Navy for Finance Management and Comptroller.
Lin is only the latest in a long list of Chinese spies in America. One of the more serious cases was that of Peter Lee, a Chinese-born US citizen who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and was arrested for passing classified national-defense information to Chinese scientists on business trips to Beijing.
Other prominent cases include:
1990: Wen Ho Lee, a Chinese-born scientist who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was indicted for stealing secrets about the US’s nuclear arsenal for China. As part of a plea bargain he was finally charged with “improper handling of restricted data.”
2008: Chinese-born Chi Mak, who worked as a support engineer on Navy quiet-drive propulsion technology in a California-based defense contractor, was arrested for copying and sending sensitive documents on US Navy ships, submarines, and weapons to China by courier.
2001: Fei Ye and Ming Zhong, respectively a US citizen and a US permanent resident, were arrested for stealing IT trade secrets to benefit China, the first convictions under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.
2013: Hua Jun Zhao was arrested for stealing a cancer-research compound from a Medical College of Wisconsin office in Milwaukee and attempting to deliver it to Zhejiang University in China.
2014: Walter Liew-Heen (aka Liu Yuanxuan) was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for violations of the Economic Espionage Act. His company had stolen trade secrets from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company and passed them to the Pangang Group, a number of state-owned companies in China.