Bloomberg News

Suspected Chinese Spy at NASA Charged With ... Porn

May 01, 2013

NASA Langley Research Center

NASA photographer Sean Smith hitched a ride with the U.S. Coast Guard to get this aerial view of NASA Langley Research Center on December 7, 2011. Photographer: NASA/Sean Smith

The tale of the Chinese scientist suspected of being a spy inside the National Aeronautics and Space Administration starts like a great Hollywood action movie.

Bo Jiang, 31, a U.S.-educated researcher who's been in the country since 2007, was fired from his job at NASA in January after taking his agency-issued computer with him on a monthlong trip to China. Two months later, he's named in a Congressional hearing as a potential threat to national security. His cover supposedly blown, Jiang boarded a flight out of Dulles International Airport for Beijing, but was removed from the plane just before takeoff. As one of hundreds of NASA employees from countries deemed security threats, the arrest seemed to come in the nick of time.

One problem: Jiang didn't have state secrets. His lawyers said he was doing "generic work" and did not have access to sensitive information. But he did have something else that could earn him a criminal record: Pirated movies and porn on his old NASA-issued laptop.

Jiang is set to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating NASA's computer rules, as my Bloomberg News colleagues Tom Schoenberg and Phil Mattingly reported. He could walk away a free man.

As often happens in cases involving alleged spies in the high-tech industry, they frequently end with a whimper because of a lack of evidence. Often, investigators hit a dead end in trying to figure out whether any state secrets were actually stolen. They can't just ask the Chinese or Iranian military for details about secrets they may have stolen. You'd have an easier time trying to avoid porn on the Internet.


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