DOJ: A Chinese Spy Engineer in the US Caught Stealing Secret Technology for Detecting Nuclear Missile Launches

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DOJ: A Chinese Spy Engineer in the US Caught Stealing Secret Technology for Detecting Nuclear Missile Launches

A Chinese researcher was arrested in San Jose, California, on February 6 by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The arrest was made on allegations of stealing trade secrets crucial to the U.S. government’s efforts in detecting nuclear missile launches and tracking ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

According to court documents, Gong Chenguang, 57, originally from San Jose, was born in China. He earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Clemson University and pursued doctoral studies at Stanford University. In 2011, he obtained U.S. citizenship.

Between January 2023 and April 2023, Mr. Gong served as an engineer at a research and development firm headquartered in Malibu, California. Referred to as the “victim company” by the Department of Justice and in court records.

According to court documents, a significant portion of the company’s projects involved developing infrared sensor technology for space-based and military applications, particularly for missile detection. These projects were primarily funded through contracts with the Pentagon and other government agencies.

According to court documents, Mr. Gong is accused of transferring 3,600 files from his company-issued laptop to three personal storage devices between March 2023 and April 2023. Following an FBI search in May 2023 at his temporary residence in Thousand Oaks, California, hundreds of documents labeled as confidential or proprietary to the company were found on these devices.

The Department of Justice stated that the technology allegedly taken by Mr. Gong could pose “dangerous to U.S. national security if obtained by international actors.”

“Many of the files Gong allegedly transferred contained proprietary and trade secret information related to the development and design of a readout integrated circuit that allows space-based systems to detect missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles while providing resilience and a readout integrated circuit that allows aircraft to track incoming threats in low visibility environments,” according to the DOJ.

According to court documents, additional files were linked to the advancement of the company’s “next-generation sensors,” designed to “detect low observable targets while demonstrating improved survivability in strategic space applications.”

As per the Department of Justice, the data reportedly taken by Mr. Gong constituted the company’s “most important trade secrets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” Additionally, the DOJ noted that certain files were labeled as “EXPORT CONTROLLED.”

“The theft of trade secrets, especially of sensitive military technology, undermines our national security, erodes U.S. competitiveness in the global market, and harms the businesses and individuals who have invested time, resources, and creativity into developing innovative technologies,” Donald Alway, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement.

Upon discovering his actions, the company terminated Mr. Gong’s employment in late April 2023.

As per the Department of Justice, Mr. Gong faces charges of trade secret theft, which could lead to a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

According to NBC News, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles stated that Mr. Gong appeared in a San Jose court on February 7. He was granted release on a $2.5 million bond, with conditions including location monitoring and a curfew.