Tuesday, January 6, 2015

National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration Employee Charged With Computer Breach Met Senior Chinese Official In Beijing

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz at the freebeacon.com offers a piece on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employee charged with a computer security breach who met with a senior Communist Chinese official in China.

A federal weather service employee charged with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from an Army Corps of Engineers database met a Chinese government official in Beijing, according to court documents that reveal the case to be part of an FBI probe of Chinese economic espionage.

Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, an employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office in Ohio, was arrested in October and charged in a federal grand jury indictment with illegally accessing the Army’s National Inventory of Dams (NID).

The NID is a sensitive database containing information on all U.S. dams. U.S. intelligence officials have said the database was compromised by Chinese hackers in 2013 as part of covert efforts by Beijing to gather sensitive information on critical U.S. infrastructure for possible use in a future conflict.

According to an FBI document in the case made public Dec. 30, Ms. Chen and Jiao Yong, an official of the Ministry of Water Resources in Beijing, exchanged a series of emails in May 2012 indicating that the two met in Beijing that year and that she was searching for, and would provide, dam-related information for him.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:


You can also read the U.S. Justice Department's October 20, 2014 release on Chen's indictment below:

DAYTON, OHIO –  Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, 59, of Wilmington, Ohio, was indicted in U.S. District Court for allegedly accessing restricted U.S. Government files. Chen is a hydrologist currently employed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) facility located in Wilmington, Ohio.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Kevin R. Cornelius, Special Agent in Charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the NOAA Administrator and George Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Investigations and Threat Management Division announced the indictment today. 

The indictment alleges that on various dates in May 2012, Chen illegally accessed restricted areas of a protected U.S. Government computer database and downloaded sensitive files from the National Inventory of Dams.  This database is maintained and controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with the National Dam Safety Review Board.

The indictment further alleges that on June 11, 2013, Chen provided materially false statements to officials from the Department of Commerce Office of Security who were assigned to investigate her activities. 

The indictment charges Chen with one count of theft of U.S. Government property, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; one count of illegally accessing a U.S. Government computer database, a crime punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and two counts of making materially false statements to federal agents, crimes each punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Chen was arrested today by FBI agents at her place of work at the Wilmington, Ohio NOAA facility.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended FBI and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Security who are jointly investigating this case.  Assistant United States Attorney Dwight Keller is representing the government in this case.

An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.   

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