- NBC NEWS - Pete Williams - FEB 3, 2022 -
Chinese spying in the U.S. has become so widespread that the FBI is launching an average of two counterintelligence investigations a day to counter the onslaught, FBI Director Christopher Wray said in an interview.
Wray has become the U.S. government’s most outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s spying. In an exclusive NBC News interview, he said the sheer scale of Chinese efforts to steal U.S. technology shocked him when he became FBI director in 2017.
“This one blew me away. And I’m not the kind of guy that uses words like ‘blown away’ easily,” he said.
Wray said the FBI is opening a new China related counter-intelligence investigation on average every 12 hours, with over 2,000 such cases currently underway.
“There is no country that presents a broader, more severe threat to our innovation, our ideas and our economic security than China does,” he said.
In a speech Monday at the Reagan Library in California, Wray warned that China’s economic espionage has reached a new level, “more brazen, more damaging than ever before.”
The Chinese government has repeatedly insisted that it doesn’t steal U.S. business secrets. But the FBI has accused Chinese spies of targeting a wide range of U.S. innovations — including Covid vaccines, computer chips, nuclear power plants, wind turbines and smartphones, for example.
Last November a Chinese intelligence officer, Xu Yanjun, was convicted of trying to steal closely guarded technology developed by GE aviation for making jet engine fan blades from composite materials. Investigators said he helped hackers in China get access to company computers and tried to persuade a GE engineer to travel to China.
GE alerted the FBI, and the engineer was given altered documents to let the scheme play out so investigators could build a criminal case. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
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