Chinese nationals have snuck onto military bases and other sensitive US sites more than 100 times in recent years — sparking federal investigations into possible spying, according to a report Monday.
Alarming cases include people crossing into a United States missile range in New Mexico — and scuba divers swimming near a rocket launch site and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials told the Wall Street Journal.
Some have also used drones to take detailed aerial footage of sensitive military sites — while the Pentagon confirmed cases of people “speeding through security checkpoints.”
Many would-be intruders, however, claim to be confused tourists who think they have a reservation at an on-base hotel — and they often use what appears to be scripted language when confronted by security, the report said.
Multiple federal agencies, including the Defense Department and FBI and other agencies, held a review last year on how to limit the attempts, which officials told the WSJ are viewed as a form of espionage.
Congress might also consider legislation, Rep. Jason Crow (D- Colo.) told the paper, to toughen up how security is handled at the sensitive sites, with trespassing laws currently being state and local, not federal.
“We need to work closely with our state and local partners to train them and equip them,” Crow said. “Right now, they don’t know how to deal with it.”
Many involved are assumed to be Chinese nationals pressed into service and required to report back to Beijing about what they saw, the outlet said.
“The advantage the Chinese have is they are willing to throw people at [intelligence] collection in large numbers,” said Emily Harding, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former deputy staff director at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“If a few of them get caught, it will be very difficult for the US government to prove anything beyond trespassing, and those who don’t get caught are likely to collect something unusual.”
Other instances of Chinese nationals entering highly sensitive areas include apparent incursions at the White House and former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Officials said Chinese nationals posing as tourists left the designated tour area of the White House to take pictures of the grounds, including communications gear and the positions of Secret Service personnel before being shooed away.
And in 2019, a Chinese woman was sentenced to eight months in prison after being convicted of unlawfully entering Mar-a-Lago. She had two passports on her at the time, four cellphones and other electronic devices.
In many of these cases, officials told the WSJ, those who have been found trespassing on bases have been briefly detained and then escorted out of the country.
No cases appear to have resulted in espionage charges, the paper said.
But in 2019, two Chinese nationals were expelled from the US on suspicions of espionage after they drove with their wives onto Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia, a highly sensitive military facility where the Navy SEALs train.
Base officials pulled a fire truck into the road to stop the vehicle in that case.
Pentagon Spokeswoman Sue Gough stressed that the incidents are “generally low-level, and so far none of them indicate espionage.”
There are more than 10,000 “controlled” turnarounds of individuals who arrive at military base gates every day, she said.
Most of them, though, involve drivers who are confused about where to go and are turned around without incident.
But in some cases, the individuals gained access to a base by “speeding through security checkpoints,” warranting additional checks and triggering an investigation.
Those individuals “are often cited criminally [and] barred from future installation access, and escorted off-base,” Gough said.
She also noted that the Department of Defense has conducted a number of security reviews since 2018, some of which have been conducted in concert with other agencies.
One such review last year focused on the physical security of nearly 1,400 gates at U.S. military bases and other aspects of base security.
“The results of the reviews have and will continue to inform changes to the protective posture of our bases,” Gough told the Journal.
The report comes just one month after two US Navy sailors were arrested for allegedly conspiring to pass sensitive security information to Chinese officials.
Still, the Chinese embassy in Washington is denying any espionage efforts.
“The relevant claims are purely ill-intentioned fabrications,” spokesperson Liu Pengyu told the Journal.
“We urge the relevant US officials to abandon the Cold War mentality, stop groundless accusations, and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust between the two countries and friendship between the two peoples.”
The post Chinese nationals have snuck onto sensitive US sites at least 100 times sparking spying fears: report appeared first on New York Post.