In the past year we have heard of innumerable breaches and compromises of information via technology – the OPM breach being a prime example. Yet espionage, the old fashioned form of espionage, human intelligence (HUMINT) has not gone by the wayside. Indeed, the United States remains a target of interest by both allies and potential adversaries.

The work of a foreign intelligence service targeting group is never over. They are constantly evaluating requirements which are levied upon them to acquire desired information. The government of Taiwan has interest in the US military reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. The People’s Republic of China’s state owned enterprise, China General Nuclear Power Co, utilized the services of an insider to organize a cadre of experts to specifically facilitate the unauthorized and illegal transfer of nuclear technology from the US to the PRC. Thus driving home the point to be ever vigilant. There is no such entity as a friendly country, all countries have their parochial interests.

Within the last month, three cases have evolved to demonstrate the need for awareness, vigilance and adherence by cleared personnel to the policies and directives found within the NISPOM and DCID.  The methodologies used by the foreign entity are covered within basic counterintelligence briefings every individual who enjoys the trust and confidence of the US Government when issued a security clearance.

Case 1 – Lt. Cmdr Edward Lin

The first case is the widely covered case of Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, US Navy. The US Military Code of Justice (USMJ) charge sheet alleges Lin violated multiple articles of the USMJ including:

  • Article 92 – four separate specifications, including: Violation of a Lawful General Order by wrongfully transporting SECRET material; failing to report the compromise of SECRET material; failing to report foreign contacts; and failure to properly store classified material classified SECRET.
  • Article 106A – five separate allegations specific to “espionage” which indicate Lin is alleged to have communicated SECRET information relating to the national defense to a representative of a foreign government;
  • Article 107 – three separate specifications dealing with Lin allegedly giving false testimony. The false testimony included: SF86 falsification due to omission of foreign travel from the signed SF86; and two accusations of falsifying a “leave address” – when he actually was traveling abroad.
  • Article 134 – seven separate specifications which ranged from five separate instances of communicating defense information to a foreign nation and a person not entitled to receive said information; one charge of prostitution and one charge for adultery.

While the press has seized on the salacious USMJ charges of prostitution and adultery, the more damaging charges are those related to espionage and the compromise of SECRET US military information which Lin was entrusted given his position within the US Navy’s Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Group.

Case 2 – Allen Ho, aka Szuhsiung Ho

Allen Ho, aka Szuhsiung Ho is a US national. The indictment of Ho indicates he is employed by the PRC state-owned China General Nuclear Power Co and also owns the US firm, Energy Technology International.

Ho is charged include “willfully and knowingly engage and participate, both directly and indirectly, in the development and production of special nuclear material outside of the United States, namely. in the People’s Republic of China, with the intent to secure an advantage to the People’s Republic of China.” To achieve his goals of providing the PRC with US nuclear technologies, Ho recruited a number of individuals with significant nuclear technology expertise, to include, Ching Ning Guey, who is identified as “US Person 1” in Ho’s unsealed indictment, and who was employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as a Senior Manager for Probabilistic Risk Assessment in the Nuclear Power Group from April 2010 through September 2014. Guey was born in Taiwan and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1990. Prior to his employment with TVA, he was a Probabilistic Risk Assessment Manager with Florida Power & Light (FPL).

Case 3 – Ching Ning Guey

According to the plea agreement signed by Ching Ning Guey, a US national, Guey admits to willfully and knowingly engaging or participating in the development or production of special nuclear material outside of the United States, with a prohibited country as that term is defined in (10 CFR §810.8 – Department of Energy (which includes the People’s Republic of China)); and did so without specific authorization to do so by the Secretary of Energy.

Key counterintelligence points:

  1. All countries protect their interests, and friend or foe may fall within the targeting scope of those charged with collecting intelligence. In the Lin case, it was Taiwan who allegedly recruited Lin to provide classified information. In the Ho and Guey cases, it was the People’s Republic of China.
  2. Lin successfully manipulated the need to report the foreign contact and foreign travel reporting requirement. His travel went unnoticed for a sufficient period of time that he needed to falsify his SF-86. (SF-86 are normally updated prior to reinvestigation by OPM as part of the security clearance process).
  3. Ho used his own company, Energy Technology International, to engage US experts as consultants, to explicitly bypass the DOE controls on special nuclear technologies.
  4. The PRC hosted Ho’s consultants in the PRC.
  5. Ho used the need for furthering his understanding as the hook for requesting and receiving controlled documents.
  6. Guey responded directly to Ho’s requests and used his employer’s access to a controlled database to acquired desired documents and designs.

Key take aways:

  1. The insider has unencumbered access to sensitive and protected information. Access controls and analysis must occur in near real time in order to detect out-of-pattern access to this information. Guey used his TVA access to the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. research database, access which Ho’s company did not have.
  2. The cadence of reinvestigations may allow an individual who has falsified or manipulated their personal information to obscure unauthorized contact and perhaps should be adjusted for those in the most sensitive positions.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of