In the underground world of spy vs spy one always has to question revelations about major spy incidents. Yesterday the FBI announced that they had arrested three men in New Orleans on spying charges and, oh by the way, another man, 72 years old who worked for Boeing up until 2002. All are accused of passing intelligence to China. The Boeing engineer had evidently been working with the Chinese government since the 1980's, passing along information on missile and Space Shuttle designs. The New Orleans gang had been involved in stealing information regarding an air defense system for Taiwan. Taiwan is investigating the integrity of their defense systems according to one report.
So, OK, more stories of Chinese spying. According to another report:
The two cases -- based in a Washington suburb and Los Angeles -- have no connection, and investigators said it was merely a coincidence that charges would be brought against both on the same day.
Very nice. But why now? One official statement had the sound of saber rattling about it.
Court papers state that the three men conspired to transfer defense secrets during meetings with Chinese intelligence officials.
“Today's prosecution demonstrates that foreign spying remains a serious threat,” said Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security.
Mr. Wainstein said in a statement that the case has “all the elements of a classic espionage operation: a foreign government focused on accessing our military secrets; foreign operatives who effectively use stealth and guile to gain that access; and an American government official who is willing to betray both his oath of public office and the duty of loyalty we rightly demand from every American citizen.”
Such spy networks “pose a grave danger to our national security, and we should all thank the investigators and prosecutors on this case for effectively penetrating and dismantling this network before more sensitive information was compromised,” he said.
Great. In the one case it took almost 20 years to apprehend an aged aerospace engineer. Kudos all around. But, this does not have the hallmarks of a major bust. It is pretty minor actually. What's the back story I wonder? Is the FBI or Justice maneuvering for more funding? Demonstrating that they are not ineffectual in combating Chinese spy efforts? Or is it bigger than that? Posturing on the US' part to get some sort of concession from China? Or is it political? Something to do with the elections?
Best reporting on this news is at The Daily News. Read to the bottom and ask yourself: What was this alleged spy doing in Bulgaria? Who put all that money in his wallet? China runs agents through Bulgaria? Why is John Le Carre wasting his time jousting pharmaceutical windmills when there are still such great stories to tell?