Thursday, 14 February 2019

Chinese Spied on Military Electronics in Florida

A Chinese student linked to Beijing's Public Security Ministry was sentenced to prison last week for spying on sensitive communications gear at a major military base in Key West, Florida.

Zhao Qianli, a Chinese national who told the FBI he was a music student visiting Florida as a tourist, was arrested by military police Sept. 26 after taking pictures and video at Naval Air Station Key West. He had waded into the surf along a beach at the base to get around a security fence, according to court papers.

Once inside the fence, Zhou began taking images of communications antennas and equipment at a site called an "antenna farm"—sensitive equipment used by the military, anti-drug, and intelligence agencies at the base.

The base is the southernmost point in the United States and home to Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South, a group engaged mainly in countering illicit trafficking but also charged with intelligence gathering and other military activities.

The base also trains pilots from all services in air-to-air combat. A squadron of F-18 jets and the Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School are located at the base.

Zhao spoke fluent English and carried no identification at the time of his arrest, a sign he was operating covertly and prepared to be detained. He told MPs who confronted him that he was a tourist who was lost and had strayed on the base by accident.

Investigators also discovered Zhao was in touch with Chinese intelligence officers inside the United States before the base intrusion.

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