One caucus of Republicans in the senate has been questioning the actions of President Joe Biden’s Justice Department to putting into a complete stop to a program meant and designed to combat Chinese espionage on American territory.
In addition, according to Just the News, Republican members of the senate want Attorney General Merrick Garland to further explain whether this new administration and government now intend to counteract Chinese surveillance and what those steps will entail.
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The legislators wrote an open letter directed to Garland this week, headed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), further questioning more about the recent discontinuation from the China Initiative, which had been started under the Trump administration throughout 2018 to help further maintain America’s technological edge.
This same program was created to try to locate and hold accountable any and everyone implicated in hacking, stealing trade secrets, and conducting economic espionage on behalf of the Chinese government in the United States.
“On Feb. 23, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it was effectively ending the China Initiative and implementing a new ‘Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats,’ which will subsume the China Initiative’s work in addition to efforts related to countries such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea,” the lawmakers noted on Thursday.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, in a speech announcing the termination of the China Initiative, said that while Beijing “stands apart” as a “brazen” spy threat, a “broader approach” is required in order to confront threats from a “variety” of other governments. He also called the effort a “strategy for countering nation-state threats.”
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Senators expressed concerned, but nevertheless, that perhaps the strategic approach is really not well defined and therefore won’t equally helpful in fighting particular national security concerns perpetrated by that of the Chinese government.
“In light of the CCP’s continued national security danger and the lack of clarification around the Department of Justice’s new ‘Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats,’ we write to request clarity on the changes in DOJ’s approach,” the senators said. “Specifically, its counter-espionage and other unlawful actions carried out by the CCP enforcement efforts.”
According to Just the News, the senators have a list of five questions they want Garland to address in detail, including what real changes he is doing at the Justice Department as the transition from the China Initiative to the new program is made.
“Despite the importance of the situation and the stakes, the Department of Justice chose to disband its China Initiative in favor of a vague ‘Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats,’ which appears to equate the CCP’s unique and extensive threats with those of other nation-state threats,” they claimed.
“It remains to be seen what real policies and measures will emerge from this plan, as well as their suitability to the situation at hand. “We encourage the Department of Justice to publicly acknowledge and reprioritize the CCP’s threat to US national security, and we ask you to rethink your decision to dismantle the China Initiative,” the senators wrote.
According to Mike Orlando, interim director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, Chinese espionage costs the United States between $200 billion and $600 billion in stolen intellectual property each year. FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted the challenges posed by China within the United States as “uniquely alarming” in a speech on January 31.
“When we add together everything we find in our investigations — over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government attempting to steal our information or technology,” he added, “there is simply no country that poses a greater danger to our ideas, creativity, and economic security than China.”
Wray also testified that every 12 hours, the FBI launches a new counterintelligence investigation targeting Chinese espionage operations. Despite the fact that the initiative resulted in a number of significant arrests and convictions, the DOJ ended it after “bowing to pressure from a loose coalition of lawmakers, nonprofits, and academics who claimed the initiative targeted people of Asian descent with racial profiling,” according to Just the News.
Multiple high-profile China-related charges were abandoned by the DOJ, while at least one China-related case resulted in an acquittal. Political and civil rights activists, as well as members of the scientific community, have raised concerns about the effort, arguing that it is unfairly targeting Chinese people, contributing to bad perceptions, and hindering international collaboration, innovation, and economic progress.
The Department of Justice conducted a strategic assessment of the China Effort in late 2021, and the initiative was terminated in February 2022. However, as discussed below, there is reason to expect that the DOJ will continue to pursue many of the China Initiative’s aims, and frequently by the same tactics – especially, criminal prosecution. The Department of Justice has yet to produce official instructions for its so-called “new strategy” to dealing with China-related issues.