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How China Could Use the Federal Breach to Recruit Spies

06/19/2015 17:11

By Joshua Philipp, Epoch Times | June 18, 2015Last Updated: June 18, 2015 9:27 pm

The entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5 in Washington. Chinese agents may use data stolen from the department to recruit spies. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5 in Washington. Chinese agents may use data stolen from the department to recruit spies. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Federal employees may start seeing a friendlier side of Chinese regime, including speaking invites at prominent universities, approaches by beautiful Chinese women, business offers, and an open ear for them to voice dissatisfaction.

Yet, all of this will be a front. Hackers allegedly with the Chinese regime recently breached a federal database that will give them a perfect roadmap on how to exploit U.S. government employees and recruit them as spies.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which holds federal employee records and information on security clearances, revealed on June 4 that hackers breached records of at least four million current and former federal employees.

Some reports have claimed security agencies within China could use the stolen information to blackmail U.S. government employees, and convince them to spy for China.

While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does use blackmail to recruit spies, it limits this practice almost entirely to Chinese nationals.

In Canada, for example, there were recent cases of Uyghurs visiting China and being blackmailed by Chinese authorities who wanted them to spy on Uyghurs living in Canada. Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that’s persecuted in China.

One was allegedly told “”We can jail you any time we like. We don’t care about Canadian passports. This is China.”

For non-Chinese, however, the approaches used by Chinese agents to recruit spies often have much more finesse.

In the United States, the motivations for espionage are defined as money, ideology, coercion, and ego (MICE). Agents will look for individuals who have a personal interest in providing information.

In China the criteria for potential spies are much broader. They look for people who have moral weaknesses they can exploit, which are fame, profit, lust, and anger.

It just happens that the federal database recently breached by hackers included details on security clearances and background checks, with would disclose all their moral shortcomings. Information that would otherwise take Chinese agents years to gather on even one person, may have just been stolen on millions of people.

An insider in Beijing detailed in a previous interview how the CCP’s recruitment process plays out.

Chinese agents will exploit human follies to gradually reel people in, flatter them, give them offers, and eventually make them recognize their spy handlers as friends or business partners who they’re willing to do favors for.

People interested in fame may get invites for speaking events in China, complete with after events where they’ll be treated like royalty—with fancy food, good wine, and attentive company.

Those interested in profit may get opportunities for business and investments. Those with lust may get approaches from beautiful women or handsome men. Individuals identified with anger—typically individuals with moral objections to government or company policies—may get recruited as a “whistleblower.”

The source said Chinese agents from four departments will often gather such information on foreign targets. These departments are the United Front Work Department, the International Department of the Central Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the military’s General Staff Department.


Retired General Michael Hayden, the former NSA and CIA chief, recently detailed what events may soon play out, during an event hosted by Wall Street Journal.

“Those records are a legitimate foreign intelligence target,” Hayden said, in a recording of the speech from Wall Street Journal. “If I, as director of CIA or NSA would have had the opportunity to grab the opportunity in the Chinese system, I would not have thought twice.”

He said the data could be used to build a “massive database” of “information on Americans employed by the U.S. government.” He stated that the information is unlikely to be used for blackmail, since it’s information on federal employees already known by the U.S. government, noting “I don’t think that’s a high percentage shot for blackmail.”

As a practical example, he described a hypothetical situation of a scientist working on a project that Chinese agents want to learn more about.

“With this database,” he said, “they know what school you went to, where you live, almost what kind of car you drive, how many children, what you have written about, who are your foreign contacts, who is your wife …”

A Chinese agent, he said, may approach that researcher, with knowledge of their personal lives they can use for flattery. “You begin a relationship, and you begin to develop that relationship,” he said, noting that maybe six months later they may say something like “let’s establish a consultancy relationship, let me pay you.”

He noted that such spy techniques like those he described are commonplace, and not limited to China.

With this in mind, however, Hayden said the recent breach “is a tremendously big deal, and my deepest emotion is embarrassment.”

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