CIA’s Bid to Throttle Down Chinese Espionage May Be Easier Said Than Done: Experts

CIA Director, William Burns, testifies during a House Intelligence Committee hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 15, 2021. (Photo by Al Drago / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Source: Epoch Times, By J. M. Phelps, September 14, 2021

The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) reported proposition to create a mission center to keep an eye on the growing threat of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is necessary, but could be considered a lofty idea, former intelligence officers say.

Bloomberg recently reported that the CIA is considering the establishment of a new mission center to focus on the Chinese regime. While matters regarding the regime were once handled by the spy agency’s Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, it is the desire of the CIA’s new director, William Burns, to elevate the focus on the United States’ number one strategic rival—the Chinese regime—the report said.

Geopolitical and Global Reach

The proposal for an independent “Mission Center for China” is in line with previous statements Burns made as a nominee before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February. While describing threats to America’s national security, he admitted that “an adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership” poses the “biggest geopolitical test” to the United States.

For retired CIA operations officer Sam Faddis, this was plainly evident.

“If you haven’t been in a coma for the last 30 or 40 years, you should be aware that the Chinese Communist Party is the number one geopolitical strategic threat to the United States,” Faddis told The Epoch Times.

Clare Lopez, also a retired CIA operations officer, agreed, describing the CCP as “our foremost international strategic adversary.” She said the Chinese regime confronts the United States on a regular basis with a broad range of threats, including military and information operations.

Likewise, Burns’s previous statements expressed the need to “out-compete” the CCP due to “a growing number of areas in which [Chinese leader] Xi’s China is a formidable, authoritarian adversary—methodically strengthening its capabilities to steal intellectual property, repress its own people, bully its neighbors, expand its global reach, and build influence in American society.”

Better Late Than Never

Six months later, the CIA director’s warning about the Chinese regime remains the same. The CCP is one of America’s biggest rivals, which lends to the growing necessity of forward-deploying China specialists and developing a new mission center to gain the upper hand, according to the experts.

Faddis said Burns’s proposal requires the melding together of operational and analytical units to focus on all aspects of the Chinese regime. “From a bureaucratic standpoint, the plan is intended to convey emphasis and that the threat is being taken seriously,” he said.

But the former CIA officer noted the difficulty in this plan.

“[The CCP] has made massive inroads, basically running around the United States with a giant vacuum cleaner for decades, stealing every secret we have on any topic under the sun,” Faddis said. As a result, “the idea that, in 2021, the CCP is now seen as a big problem makes [the CIA] a little late to the party,” he said.

However, it’s not too late, according to Faddis. “[The CIA’s] success or lack of success in espionage has always depended on what is done in the field—not in the offices of bureaucrats.”

Thus, he said, the proposal for a mission center must be accompanied by a corresponding effort in the field.

“Recent history does not reflect much change in the field, as evidenced by this administration’s intelligence failures in Afghanistan, so if you were asking me to put money on it, I would say [Burns’s] effort is also going to be smoke and mirrors.”

Intelligence Community Discredits the Threat

Faddis noted the spate of federal cases initiated during the Trump administration involving Chinese researchers accused of having ties to the Chinese military, but were subsequently released by the Justice Department this current administration.

“Right now, there’s a serious debate as to whether the FBI’s China initiative, which was put in place to get tough on Chinese espionage, is racist,” Faddis said, adding that “this is obviously a preamble to—at a minimum—watering it down, if not doing away with it entirely.”

The Justice Department launched the China initiative in 2018 to tackle the threats posed by Chinese espionage and other forms of Chinese infiltration in the United States. More than 80 percent of all economic espionage charges brought by federal prosecutors since 2012 implicated China, according to the department.

“This level of Chinese espionage inside the United States must be reduced,” Faddis said. “The first step is to get their spies out of the country.”

The next step, he said, involves recruiting Chinese operators in the field, here and abroad. “It has to translate into getting additional information,” he said.

Remedies Not Taken

The former CIA officers said the Biden administration must take tougher action and “intensify human intelligence” in the fight against the CCP. Faddis cited the Wuhan Institute of Virology as an example. “A top lab for bioweapons research should have had the American intelligence community all over it, wired 10 ways from Sunday,” he said.

Lopez, also founder and president of Lopez Liberty, agreed, saying that the Chinese regime’s “array of weapons of mass destruction, in particular, biological weapons and the sprawling network of military and civilian researchers should have been a primary concern.”

Faddis said, “Yet pushing two years after the beginning of the pandemic, the intelligence community still can’t give a straight answer on how it started—[and] this is an abject failure.”