Bill Evanina, the former Director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) had said on Wednesday that China employs “nontraditional collectors” of information, who work in the U.S. and will end up “unwittingly working for the Communist Party” by forwarding sensitive information to the Chinese government.
“Nontraditional collectors,” Evanina told the Senate Intelligence Committee, are “either wittingly or unwittingly working for the Communist Party of China” and “don’t know they’re lobbyists and don’t know they’re here registering as a foreign agent. Most likely they’re not and oftentimes they conduct high-level research at a ceramics lab or an institute and then get a phone call one day by someone back home. They don’t know that they are an agent of a foreign power and they don’t know that they are a lobbyist.”
Evanina stated that around 328,000 Chinese students are studying in the US, all of whom are “forced to have Chinese phones with WeChat so the Chinese can monitor them here. So when you are here, whether as a student or researcher, and you get a call from the [China’s] Ministry of State Security asking you to do something for them and your grandmother is sick or your father needs a job, you are going to do whatever they ask you to do.”
Evanina served as the NCSC director from June 2014 through to the end of President Donald Trump’s presidential term on January 20, 2021.
Evanina joined Former Deputy National Advisor for the White House Matt Pottinger and Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), Anna Puglisi, to testify about foreign surveillance threats by the Chinese government.
Evanina and Puglisi warned about “nontraditional collectors” such as Chinese students, who enter the US seeking education and find themselves pressured by the Chinese government to gather information.
In December 2020, the Department of Justice assessed that over 1,000 Chinese researchers fled the US back to their home country a crackdown on China’s theft of U.S. research.
“The Insider Threat epidemic originating from the CCP has been nothing short of devastating to the U.S. corporate world,” Evanina added.
“The Communist Party of China strategically conducts malign influence campaigns at the state and local level of the United States with precision,” he stated.
Evanina continued by saying that the US State Department operates the Global Engagement Center as a way of coordinating US counterterrorism messaging. “We don’t have a Domestic Engagement Center to help advise and inform Americans as to how to identify where that [foreign] influence is and what might be true and what might not be true from that website. So I do think we have a hole to fill with respect to understanding malign foreign influence and to help Americans.”