We built a database to understand the China Initiative. Then the government changed its records.

The Justice Department itself has not come very far. As we explain in our main part, DOJ officials have so far failed to provide a clear definition of what the China Initiative case is or how many cases it has brought. This lack of transparency makes it impossible to understand what China’s initiative is, what it has achieved, and what it has cost for disproportionately affected people.

“I want to see the balance sheet,” said Jeremy Wu, who held senior civil rights and ethics positions in the U.S. government before co-founding the APA Justice Task Force, one of the groups independently tracking the China Initiative. “What have we got?” How many spies did we catch compared to how much damage it did? [been] Not just for individuals, but for the future of American science and technology? ”

Our database is not a balance sheet. But it is also an important step in answering some of the questions raised by Wu – questions that the US government has yet to answer. Instead, it adds to the confusion: two days after we contacted the request for comment, the Justice Department made major updates to its webpage, removing cases that did not support the description of its successful counterterrorism attempt.

How we did it

This spring, we began searching through all the press releases linked to the Department of Justice’s China Initiative webpage, followed by another scrap of its data in August. We then pulled out thousands of pages of federal court records relating to each case and used this information to create our database.

We also combed through additional court documents and public statements by FBI and DOJ officials to find cases that have been removed from the webpage or never included. We then supplemented this information with interviews with defense attorneys, family members of the defendants, associate investigators, former U.S. prosecutors, civil rights advocates, legislators, and outside scholars who have studied the initiative. We found more cases that were dropped from the DOJ’s public list but were either publicly described as part of the initiative or matched the general factual pattern of scholars accused of hiding ties with Chinese institutions, hackers alleged to have worked for the Chinese government. , Or an accuser of illegal technology transfer.

Our goal was to create as comprehensive a database of China Initiative action as possible. We know there may be more, and our database may increase as we confirm the existence of additional cases. If you have more information about China Initiative Case, please contact us tips@technologyreview.com,

Our tracking efforts became even tougher in June, when the Department of Justice stopped updating its China Initiative webpage. That deadline is almost consistent with the resignation of John Demmers, the assistant attorney general who oversaw the initiative and oversees the Department of Homeland Security.

Once we had created a rough database and analyzed the data, we compared the notes with Woo of the APA Justice Task Force and with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice. The AJC, another civil rights group, is tracking cases, and we shared our initial findings with a small group of legislators, representatives of civil rights organizations, and scholars, and asked for their comments.

What the Justice Department changed

On November 19, two days after the MIT Technology Review contacted the Department of Justice with questions about the initiative, which included numerous cases that we believe were ignored or mistakenly included, the department made major changes to the China Initiative webpage. .

These changes were far-reaching, but they did not really remove much of the confusion surrounding the initiative. In fact, in some ways they made it worse.

When he did not answer our specific questions, Wynn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the DOJ’s National Security Department, informed us by email that the staff was “in the process of updating our webpage to reflect some changes, updates and dismissals.” ”

He also shared the department’s own numbers. “Since November 2018, we have brought or solved nine economic espionage cases and seven theft trade secrets cases in conjunction with the PRC. We have also brought 12 cases of fraud against universities and / or grant-making institutions, ”he wrote.

We’ve found significantly more than 12 research integrity cases પરંતુ but only 13 of the 23 research integrity cases included in our database are currently on the website. (One of the cases was settled before the charges were filed.) Six of those cases ended in guilty pleas. Seven is still left.

Seven of the eight research integrity cases that ended in dismissal or acquittal were previously included on the website, but the DOJ has now removed them from its list.

Our analysis shows 12 cases of theft of trade secrets or economic espionage since November 2018. Ten are listed on the site of the Department of Justice. (There were two related proceedings, although they were charged separately.) Of those 10, seven were charged. Only No more serious allegations of theft of trade secrets and economic espionage. One is accused of both economic espionage and the theft of trade secrets. There were two other cases of hacking – one involving economic espionage citations, and one involving the theft of a reference to trade secrets.

The Justice Department did not respond to multiple requests for more details.

Our subsequent analysis shows that the DOJ has removed 17 cases and 39 defendants from its China Initiative page, adding two cases[withatotaloffivedefendantsandupdatingexistingcaseswithavailabletrialandtrialinformationwhereavailable[કુલપાંચપ્રતિવાદીઓસાથેઅનેજ્યાંઉપલબ્ધહોયત્યાંસજાઅનેટ્રાયલમાહિતીસાથેહાલનાકેસોનેઅપડેટકર્યાછે[withatotaloffivedefendantsandupdatedexistingcaseswithsentencingandtrialinformationwhereavailable

Hornbuckle did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on what it says about transparency.

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