A research scientist working for a NASA contractor at the Langley Research Center was arrested on suspicion of planning to bring sensitive technical information back to his home country of China. Federal investigators arrested Bo Jiang moments before departing from DC to Beijing on a one-way ticket. Jiang is being charged with lying to federal agents about the electronics he had in his possession after they turned up a previously undisclosed computer, hard drive, and SD card in his luggage. The case had been brought to the attention of federal investigators, along with Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), by NASA whistleblowers who were concerned about a previous trip Jiang had taken to China with sensitive information.

Jiang was not to have been permitted to access export-controlled information

In a press conference on the day of the arrest, Wolf lambasted NASA, along with Jiang’s employer for over two years, the National Institute of Aerospace, for violating extensive security protocols put in place to avoid emerging military and dual-use technologies being exfiltrated from the agency in violation of the Export Administration Act. The Congressman pointed out that in order for Jiang to be given access to the facility, he was required to have been escorted at all times, and was not permitted to access export-controlled information, or leave with NASA software source code. Wolf said he was particularly concerned that Jiang may have previously taken source code for high-tech imaging technology with “significant military applications” back to China, which has been claimed by NASA employees. The country, along with Iran, North Korea, Syria, and others, is on the agency's Proscribed Countries List, meaning that US policy prohibits exporting it “defense articles,” including “technical data.”

In light of the Jiang case, Wolf is calling for an independent review of NASA security procedures, which its administrator, Charles Bolden, stopped short of recommending at an appropriations hearing (video below) on Wednesday. Bolden stated that he had ordered an internal review of the access that foreign nationals from designated countries are granted at NASA facilities, which he will use to assess the need for an independent review. “This is about National Security, not about NASA security,” added Bolden. “I’m responsible, and I will hold myself accountable once our reviews are completed.” Jiang is currently being held until Thursday, when he will be given a preliminary hearing on the lying charge.