FBI arrests NASA contractor about to leave U.S. for China

Tuesday - 3/19/2013, 7:21am EDT

A Chinese national under investigation for possible violations of the Arms Control Act was arrested Saturday aboard a plane at Dulles International Airport as he was attempting to leave the country.

Bo Jiang, a contractor at the National Institute of Aerospace who worked at NASA-Langley in Hampton, Va., was charged Monday with lying to federal agents, according to the Associated Press.

An affidavit filed by the FBI in Norfolk, Va., said that Jiang was under investigation for "conspiracies and substantive violations of the Arms Control Act," a case the FBI opened March 13 based on evidence obtained from whistleblowers at NASA-Langley.

According to the affidavit, federal agents learned Friday that Jiang intended to leave the U.S. with a one-way ticket to China. On Saturday, after Jiang had flown from Norfolk to Dulles, agents made a border stop on the plane at Dulles and conducted a search of Jiang's personal items.

"During the consensual encounter, federal agents asked Jiang what electronic media he had with him," the affidavit said. "Jiang told the Homeland Security agent that he had a cellphone, a memory stick, and external hard drive and a new computer. However, during the search, other media items were located that Jiang did not reveal. Such items include an additional laptop, an old hard drive and a SIM card."

The affidavit revealed that agents believed that the electronic media was material to the federal investigation and that Jiang had previously left the U.S. with a NASA laptop that the FBI believed contained sensitive data.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) expressed concerns at a March 7 press conference about security at NASA-Langley after whistleblowers warned of a possible data breach at the facility.

"I called the March 7 press conference after the whistleblowers provided my office with a report alerting me to a potential situation at NASA-Langley involving a Chinese national — subsequently identified during my hearing last week as Bo Jiang — who was provided access and information he should have otherwise been restricted from receiving," Wolf said. "Even more troubling, the investigative report identified how Mr. Jiang was allowed by NASA and NIA supervisors to take his work and volumes of other NASA research back to China for a period of time, as documented in an investigative report I received."

Wolf said NASA has spent more than $200,000 on Jiang's contract over the last two years.

He also said he has seen documents showing other NASA contractors are employing Chinese nationals.

"This begs the question: how many Chinese nationals currently work at NASA?" Wolf asked. "How many other foreign nationals from designated countries work at NASA?"

Wolf said he saw merit in conducting a complete audit of NASA's contractors to see if they employ foreign nationals at the space agency's centers.

"We have to know whether these contractors, who are receiving sizable contracts at taxpayer expense, are fully complying with the law and NASA security regulations," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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