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Thornberry talks about arrest of alleged Chinese spy at Harvard

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on the charges brought against Dr. Charles Lieber, Chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The FBI arrested Dr. Lieber on charges related to his participation in the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program. According to the charges, while Dr. Lieber was serving as the principal investigator for millions of dollars in nanotechnology research grants from the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Institutes of Health in the fields of biology, medicine, energy and computing, Dr. Lieber was also allegedly being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per month by the Thousand Talents Program to conduct nanotechnology research beneficial to China, and recruiting other scientists to work for China.

“The allegations against Dr. Lieber underscore how important it is to secure the Department of Defense from aggressive espionage efforts and improve awareness within our partners in Academia. Clearly we have more work to do in this area- including in the FY21 NDAA. Universities must be better partners with the Pentagon in protecting the DoD funded scientific research we need to protect the country.

“One of our country’s great strengths is the robust cooperation between our academic researchers and the national security community. Both sides must acknowledge the stakes and take steps to protect taxpayer funds from theft by foreign nations who seek to erode our technological advantages. Universities must take responsibility for the impact their employees and students can have on national security. DoD must do better at vetting individuals working on Pentagon funded research and hold researchers responsible for some of our most important research projects to a similar vetting standard as the people who work, or visit, our military installations.“

Thornberry also described China’s Thousand Talents Program.

According to the Department of Justice, China’s Thousand Talents Plan is one of the most prominent Chinese Talent recruit plans that are designed to attract, recruit, and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity, and national security. These talent programs seek to lure Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts to bring their knowledge and experience to China and reward individuals for stealing proprietary information.

Thornberry said this is what Congress has done to protect vital research:

— Prohibited Department of Defense from funding Chinese-language programs at Universities that maintain a Confucius Institute.

— Required the Department of Defense to implement a disclosure initiative for certain applicants for DOD research funding to provide information concerning whether they have participated, or are currently participating, in a Chinese government-sponsored talent or expert recruitment program.

— Required Universities to disclose the names of all researchers working on Department of Defense-funded applied research.

— Required the federal government to collaborate with U.S. institutions of higher education to develop a list of Chinese and Russian academic institutions that have a history of improper technology transfer, espionage, or malign recruitment activities.

— Directed the establishment of a White House Interagency Working Group, comprised of federal agencies, researchers, and academia, to develop recommendations and practical steps to protect federally funded research and development through the inclusion of the bi-partisan Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019 in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

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