Suspected Chinese Spies Keep Giving the Same Excuse

They claim to be lost tourists in emerging trend with cases in Florida and now Alaska
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2023 3:28 PM CDT
Suspected Chinese Spies Keep Giving the Same Excuse
A restricted sign is shown at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California.   (Getty Images/Jerry Uomala)

Chinese citizens claiming to be lost tourists have been caught trying to access military facilities in Alaska in recent years as part of a suspected spy operation that appears to extend well beyond the Last Frontier, USA Today reports. Multiple US soldiers tell the outlet of Chinese attempts to learn about military capabilities by accessing military bases in the state, which has become key to homeland defense and to efforts to defend US interests in the Arctic. They describe one incident when a vehicle carrying Chinese citizens and a drone drove through a security checkpoint at Fairbanks' Fort Wainwright, with its inhabitants later claiming they were lost tourists. It's an explanation offered before.

When a 20-year-old Chinese exchange student who'd undergone military training in China was caught with illegal photos of Florida's Naval Air Station Key West in September 2018, the man found with a belt buckle that referenced China's Interior Ministry allegedly claimed he had traveled from New Jersey to "see the sights" but become "lost," per NBC News. Over the next two years, three other Chinese students were arrested for taking photos of the same base. Meanwhile, two Chinese women were accused of trespassing at then-President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, including one who claimed she paid a guide to take her to sights and didn't know what Mar-a-Lago was.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has described Chinese espionage as the agency's "top counterintelligence priority." Asked about Chinese spying during a recent visit to Alaska, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks acknowledged "the possibility of intrusion on our installations" but spoke vaguely of efforts to ensure they are "protected from threats." "We take a lot of measures to do that," she said, per USA Today. Still, the outlet raises the possibility that spies could leave behind sensors capable of detecting sensitive communications in Alaska, whose "remoteness and savage winter cold, once viewed as protective barriers, provide less security for prying eyes." (More Chinese spies stories.)

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