Is Silicon Valley the soft underbelly of the US? “There’s a full-on epidemic of espionage on the West Coast right now,” according to this article in Politico.
Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election has given Putin’s regime an outsized role in the national conversation on espionage. But talk to former intel officials, and many will say that China poses an equal, if not greater, long-term threat. “The Chinese just have vast resources,” said Kathleen Puckett, who worked counterintelligence in the Bay Area from 1979 to 2007. “They have all the time in the world, and all the patience in the world. Which is what you need more than anything.” (China’s Embassy in Washington, did not respond to requests for comment.)
Because of California’s economic and political importance, as well as its large, well-established, and influential émigré and Chinese-American communities, the People’s Republic places great weight on its intelligence activities here, said multiple former intelligence officials. Indeed, two told me that California is the only U.S. state to which the Ministry of State Security—China’s main foreign intelligence agency—has had a dedicated unit, focused on political intelligence and influence operations. (China has had a similar unit for Washington.)
And if California is elevated among Chinese interests, San Francisco is like “nirvana” to the MSS, said one former official, because of the potential to target community leaders and local politicians who may later become mayors, governors or congressmen. Their efforts are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
There are some extraordinary revelations about alleged Chinese espionage and influence activities in San Francisco, including the suspected co-opting of local power broker Rose Pak by Chinese intelligence. The article also reveals that Chinese officials are believed to have bused in 6,000 to 8,000 J-Visa holding students from across California to disrupt anti-Beijing protests in San Francisco during the 2008 Olympic torch relay. There’s much more, so read the whole thing.