Engineer Goes to Trial in China Military Spy Case

Article excerpt


China's efforts to use spying to gain U.S. military technology will get a close look during the trial of a Chinese-born defense contractor set to begin today near Los Angeles.

Chi Mak, an electrical engineer who worked on some of the U.S. Navy's most sensitive high-tech weapons, goes on trial in a federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., on charges of conspiracy to export U.S. defense secrets to China, possession of property in aid of a foreign government and failure to register as a foreign agent.

Federal law-enforcement and counterintelligence officials said the case against Mr. Mak and four others is one of the most significant Chinese intelligence-gathering cases in recent years after a string of failed China-spying cases. The FBI has come under fire for mishandling the 1999 case of Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, and the 2003 case of Los Angeles businesswoman Katrina Leung, who officials say spied for China while posing as an FBI informant.

Prosecutors plan to show that Mr. Mak and his brother Tai Mak were part of a ring that passed sensitive Navy technology to China through a military-funded research institute in Guangzhou.

Officials said that in 2001, Chi Mak gave his brother key details of the Navy's SPY-1 phased array radar, the heart of the Aegis battle management system used on almost all Navy warships. Tai Mak, a Phoenix Television engineer, was described by officials as a courier who passed the technology to China.

Chi Mak also was involved in developing the Navy's Quiet Electric Drive, a stealth-related technology for the next generation of warships. The Maks were arrested in October 2005 as, officials say, they sought to pass the drive technology to China. Chi Mak also is thought to have compromised the Navy's newest attack submarine, the Virginia class, by providing China with details of its onboard electrical system, which would make it easier for China to track the submarine.

Investigators say Chi Mak told them after his arrest that he supplied information to Pu Pei-liang, a researcher at the military-funded Chinese Center for Asia Pacific Studies (CAPS) at Zhongshan University. …