‘It was a serious investigation’: Investigators say Chinese stole critical materials from US in campaign espionage case

Trump’s Friday announcement to impose steep tariffs on foreign copper imports last year was welcomed by supporters of local and federal investigations into the Chinese activities at the high-profile security firm that was part of a background check for Hunter Biden’s rise to national prominence.

RSA Security Inc., which provides security and intelligence services, including on missions overseas, was the employer for three of six employees who were employed by a supposed shadow company that was acting as a front for Chinese intelligence services, according to a criminal complaint filed by U.S. authorities.

The charges against the firm’s former president and two of its former staffers, accuse them of acting as agents for China’s Ministry of State Security. Richard “Duffy” Houlihan, a U.S. citizen originally from Michigan, who was arrested in Houston, was accused of laundering $1.1 million from criminal proceeds to pay for the firm’s expenses, including the Bahamas home of the notorious mobster Vincent Asaro, according to the complaint.

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Houlihan’s wife, Coleen, is Hunter Biden’s wife, who is the daughter of former Vice President Joe Biden.

The case marks the most serious security breach involving a domestic firm in memory, in which the private firm apparently tried to hide the presence of Chinese intelligence services inside the operations. The RSA Security Inc. and Homeland Security Investigations worked as partners during the investigation and conviction of the firm’s ex-president, who is now serving five years in prison.

Rob Genet, a former Homeland Security Security Investigations special agent, now an agent with GDIT Special Investigations, said “expressed concerns” to federal officials in his role as a criminal investigative partner with the Justice Department.

“It was a serious investigation with an international terrorist group to protect not only the U.S. homeland, but to protect the country of Ireland as well,” Genet said. “We recognized that these individuals had ties to foreign intelligence services and that their activities have a direct and material impact on national security.”

The criminal complaint, filed in federal court in California, highlights a series of recent incidents and high-profile cases that investigators say demonstrate China’s most disturbing actions.

The Chinese stole sensitive proprietary industrial design documents related to an American drone, Genet said.

During a seven-month probe in 2014, U.S. investigators said they confiscated and searched two Yahoo e-mail accounts used by Houlihan and Christopher Surette, a U.S. citizen and former U.S. Army sergeant who at the time was a staffer at the ultra-secret Defense Intelligence Agency. He was placed on administrative leave after questions arose about his activities.

Investigators learned that through the accounts, Houlihan “had communicated extensively with a Chinese government-based intelligence officer,” according to the court filing. They learned that Houlihan was linked to “multiple thefts of trade secrets from the U.S. aerospace industry,” the complaint says.

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“China has concluded that the U.S. economy is open to manipulation, and its intelligence services are motivated to exploit the available access and opportunities to acquire valuable intelligence on U.S. strategic positions and potential future political objectives,” read a January 2018 report by The Intelligence Project at The American Enterprise Institute.

The accounts with Yahoo served as intermediaries between Houlihan and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he worked for and for which he briefly served as an acting director after the departure of Eric J. Schulz in 2015.

Chinese intelligence agents conducted “full surveillance of [U.S. presidential candidate] Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters and the Democratic National Committee in order to determine the location of the ‘John Doe’ believed to be responsible for the theft of DIA documents,” the report said.

The New York Times reported on Monday that Houlihan founded the firm that unwittingly housed the Chinese company. (The names of the company, its U.S. employees and Chinese intelligence operatives have been redacted.)

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