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Chinese Espionage Case Indicative of Systemic Problem in U.S. Navy

Chinese Espionage Case Indicative of Systemic Problem in U.S. Navy

Career naval officer and naturalized U.S. citizen charged with revealing American surveillance secrets

A career U.S. naval officer with an extensive background in signals intelligence has been accused of mishandling and passing on sensitive information to the Chinese and Taiwanese governments.

charge sheet released Friday revealed that Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, 39, faces several counts of espionage and attempted espionage “with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

A native of Taiwan, Lin moved to the United States with his parents at age 14. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1999 after being naturalized as a citizen that same year.

While the nature of the information compromised was not disclosed, documents indicate Lin is facing two counts of espionage, three counts of attempted espionage, and charges relating to prostitution and adultery. A preliminary hearing was held Friday in Norfolk, VA and will be followed by a decision on whether there is enough evidence to bring the case before a court marshall.

Unbeknownst to the public, Lin was arrested in Hawaii in September of last year while attempting to board a flight to mainland China. He has since been held in pre-trial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, VA.

As Fox News explains, Lin’s career in the Navy was extensive:

“An official list of Lin’s Navy assignments says he joined the service in December 1999 as an enlisted sailor and attended Navy nuclear training at Charleston, South Carolina, from 2000 to 2002. He then attended Officer Candidate School and gained his commission in May 2002.

He served with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1, based at Whidbey Island, Washington, from 2004 to 2007. Among his other assignments, he attended the Navy War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and served for nearly two years in Washington on the staff of the assistant secretary of the Navy for financial management and comptroller.”

At Whidbey Island, Lin was part of squadron that flew and supported Lockheed Martin EP3-E Aires II, a reconnaissance aircraft gathers information on the intelligence gathering capabilities of America’s adversaries.

Lin would eventually go on to Hawaii to head a more sensitive signals intelligence program. USNI reports:

“In 2014, Lin reported to the Special Projects Patrol Squadron Two ‘Wizards’ (VPU-2) at Marine Corps Air Base Kaneohe, Hawaii as a department head. The Wizards fly signals intelligence aircraft based on the EP3-E Aries II that for decades were classified as part of a so-called “black” or secret program.”

Why Lin’s case is significant

This patrol and reconnaissance group operates and gathers intelligence from aircraft with extremely guarded technological capabilities, particularly in submarine detection. Although Lin wasn’t a pilot, he was, as a department head, intimately involved with the coordination of the information detected by the aircraft.

The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and Navy have been physically and technologically expanding at an alarming rate. Despite its rapid efforts in building and militarizing islands across South China Sea, the PLA Navy’s submarine warfare program is arguably its fastest growing program. Because Chinese submarine technology is about a generation behind that of its enemies, detailed information on the submarine detection capabilities of its enemies is crucial. If someone like Lt. Cmdr. Lin passed on technical specification of sensors on the U.S. surveillance aircraft he was familiar with, the Chinese are surely working on developing a countermeasure as we speak.

A Lockheed EP-3 Aries of fleet air reconnaissance squadron one (VQ-1) World Watchers - WIKIPEDIA

A Lockheed EP-3 Aries of fleet air reconnaissance squadron – WIKIPEDIA

How Lin was recruited

Exactly how Lin initiated contact with the Chinese and Taiwanese is unknown. As a native of Taiwan, Lin could have been contacted by Chinese operatives while visiting family members in Taiwan. In 2011, Lin is documented in photos on social media while on a trip with friends to Taiwan.

The presence of Chinese spies in Taiwan is not at all unheard of and neither is the infiltration of Chinese operatives in the Taiwanese military. In light of the OPM hack, the capability of an adversary like China to seek out native born Taiwanese or Chinese within the U.S. military no longer seems far fetched.

On Tuesday, Taiwan denied any involvement in Lin’s case, saying, “We have absolutely never used or exploited current or former U.S. military personnel to help with any intelligence gathering.”

John Schindler, strategist and former intel analyst for the NSA, said that Lin could face the death penalty if convicted.

“Although the indictment was heavily redacted, it was obvious that the accused has done serious damage to our national security, not least because the charges—including communicating secret information “relating to the national defense to representatives of a foreign government”—could carry the death penalty.”

The case of Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin is the first major case of espionage by an active duty member of the military since John Walker, a Navy warrant officer and submariner who passed military secrets to the Soviets before being caught in 1985.

The U.S. Navy, however, is no stranger to espionage. As Schindler explains, Lin’s case is just the latest in what is a systemic crisis that must be addressed. This February, naval engineer James Robert Baker was accused of having concealed a double life as an Iranian citizen. Federal prosecutors have accused the 30-year-engineer, naturalized U.S. citizen born in Iran, of lying in order to obtain his security clearance, lying about his possession of an Iranian passport, and using several differing security numbers to open bank accounts.

Featured image via YouTube

[UPDATE: Post originally stated Lin was naturalized in 2008; that error has since been corrected.]


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A background investigation for a high level clearance used to be very extensive and time consuming. It took a year for me to get my first clearance and they talked to people I hadn’t seen in years. Has the FBI outsourced the process to

    Merlin in reply to Sanddog. | April 14, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    He probably passed his initial FBI field check without a problem. I passed my initial USN TS and was never looked at again. I don’t believe my eventual transfer to a comparable DoD civil service position netted another investigation either. Those FBI field checks are thorough enough to have your mama looking at you sideways because the FBI was talking to EVERYBODY. They told the neighbors it was for an employment screening, but my mother was convinced I was up to no good. I had a little ‘splaining to do.

    Once that clearance is in your jacket I don’t think it’s routinely reviewed unless you overtly give them a reason to squint in your direction. I wonder how he finally tripped up.

      NavyMustang in reply to Merlin. | April 14, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      TS SCI clearances are reviewed every five years routinely and an investigation begun if something suspicious surfaces. I’ve had more SSBI updates than I care to count.

      I also flew with both of the squadrons that this clown was with. A very sad day indeed for the Navy.

    tom swift in reply to Sanddog. | April 14, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    They may have outsourced it to the Chinese.

    That would explain a lot of things.

    NavyMustang in reply to Sanddog. | April 14, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Still is. I had an SSBI done a couple of years ago after holding an SCI clearance for over twenty years. It took about six months to complete the Investigation. They questioned me about stuff that has happened a quarter century before. Sheesh!

My goodness, can you imagine someone keeping classified data on their personal hard drive? This should be some sort of crime.

“What difference at this point does it make?”

Oh, wait. That flippant dismissal only applies to wealthy corrupt-o-crats in the Obama administration.

This sounds like a classic mole scenario – ala the 1987 movie ‘No Way Out’, but far more mundane, yet with deadly, real life consequences.

This vile administration sure does have a lot of problems with underlings going rogue and doing serious damage to the U.S. intelligence operations…

Considering Hillary and Bill Clinton sold US military secrets to China, and considering we have a the worst traitors since the Rosenbergs currently living in the White House, Lin is probably just the tip of an iceberg of rampant treason waiting to be uncovered.

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1999 and was naturalized in 2008.

This isn’t just a Navy problem; it’s a systemic problem that permeates the entire defense and national security apparatus. I am including investigating, adjudicating, and granting security clearances under the umbrella of national security apparatus.

To be blunt Lin was a diversity hire, and to meet their diversity goals the feds, including and in many ways especially DoD, will ignore a lot of red flags. Recall the Army Chief of Staff’s reaction after learning Nidal Hassan had killed 13 of what were theoretically his soldiers. He said it would be an even greater tradjedy if that mass murder would be allowed to derail their diversity outreach.

Loyalty in a functional, effective military runs down the chain of command, not just up the chain of command. No longer; the service chiefs are loyal dancing bears for their political masters and the troops are consumables; just grist for the social engineering mill.

This didn’t start with Obama, obviously. It really started under Clinton after Tailhook, and kept getting progressively worse under his and GWB’s terms. But it’s gotten exponentially worse under Obama.

If you don’t meet some diversity goal then the slightest defect, even an imaginary one, can preclude you from getting a clearance. For instance I married a Japanese woman when I was stationed in Japan. When I submitted my paperwork for one of my SSBI periodic reviews I forgot to list my brother-in-law. That caused an uproar; the investigators thought I was trying to hide a foreign contact. Of course, the only reason they knew about him was I had listed him on two prior SSBI PRs. Eventually they reluctantly concluded I wasn’t trying to hide my relationship with my brother-in-law, whom I had told them about years earlier. But I’m white, I don’t check off any boxes, hence the third degree. They’ve got plenty of white guys in the Navy so they can afford to kick us out on a whim.

Then there’s this travesty:

“NEW YORK – The retired American Jewish dentist who had been denied security clearance to serve in a naval clinic in Saratoga Springs because his mother and siblings live in Israel, Dr. Gershon Pincus, won his appeal challenging the US military’s decision.

…The Statement of Reasons provided to him by the US Navy stated: ‘You have weekly telephone contact with your mother and brother in Israel. You added that your mother, sister and brother may have contact with neighbors in Israel.

‘Foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern due to divided loyalties…'”

The joys of the Obama era. We knew he wanted to make us more like a European country. Who knew that country would be late 19th century France where all Joooooz are assumed to have divided loyalties. Except in the Obama do-over there will be no Dreyfuss trials as under the Obama regime those Joooooz can’t get the security clearance to become an officer in the first place.

All officers have at least a secret clearance. Most won’t have a TS/SCI clearance as they don’t have a need to know. It may not make much sense at first glance for a dentist to have a clearance. But it should be obvious that an Army psychiatrist treating soldiers with PTSD would need that clearance because he’s going to have to listen to and understand their stories if they’re going to treat them successfully.

How the hell did Army psychiatrist Maj. Hasan qualify for a secret clearance when Dr. Pincus did not? At least he didn’t until his story hit the press and everyone raised holy hell. How come Palestinian-American Hasan wasn’t suspected of “divided loyalties” while Jewish-American Pincus was?

“In the West Bank, Palestinian relatives of the alleged Fort Hood shooter are shocked and saddened by the mass killings in Texas. Born in Virginia, Nidal Malik Hasan made his FIRST visit to the Palestinian territories a dozen years ago, and had been in touch with relatives in the town of El Bireh on numerous occasions since then…”

The Army can just overlook that, along with far more troubling foreign contacts the Islamist murderer had. Because, diversity!

And how the hell did Huma Abedin get a clearance? Reps Bachmann, Gohmert, and others brought up her shady ties and they were accused of smearing her with “guilt by association.”

As we’ve already seen in the case of Dr. Pincus, “guilt by association” is enough to deny someone a security clearance. Nobody has a right to a clearance. The clearance has to benefit the US and our national security, and if there’s reasonable suspicion it will harm national security it must be denied. If there wasn’t a systemic problem, Abedin would never have gotten a clearance because she not only not only did her immediate family have questionable ties, she was a member and employee of organizations that have known ties to terrorist organizations and foreign governments.

She was not just a member but on the executive board of the Muslim Student Association in Washington D.C. The MSA is a known front group for the Muslim Brotherhood, the original jihadist group of the 20th century, and implicated in the Holy Land Foundation terror funding trial. She was also on the editorial staff of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, the house publication of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs. The IMMA attempts to maintain the thinnest of a pretenses of being an independent “institute” but it is entirely the creature of the Saudi government. It is the foreign policy arm of the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs uses petrodollars to export their brand of virulently anti-Western, anti-American Islam by funding mosques and providing publications fee of charge, and the JMMA plays a role in both providing cover for their activities and convincing Western Muslims not to assimilate into larger society but instead remain apart from and hostile to it.

Anybody who works for the IMMA or its publication the JMMA would in a sane world be required to register as an agent of a foreign power.

Yet Abedin got her clearance without a problem. If any of us had just her ties to immediate family who are members of shady but less fashionable organizations than the Muslim Sisterhood/Brotherhood we would never get a clearance.

Lin’s ties to Taiwan should have raised red flags given what we know about Chinese intelligence operations. They have by far the largest HUMINT organization in the world. They almost always target ethnic Chinese. They will target non Chinese if they have a specific need; you may or may not recall the 2014 conviction of the then 59 year old Pacific Command contractor and former Army Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop. Apparently the Chinese intel services had no other route to gathering the information they required, so they sent Bishop a 27 year old Chinese graduate student girlfriend to get it out of him. It worked, and Bishop is now two years into a seven year stay at Club Fed. But they much prefer to keep things “in house,” so to speak, where they can use more traditional means of influencing their marks to work for the PRC.

Here’s where we get to the traditional disclaimers about how not all Chinese Americans are security risks, the vast majority are patriotic Americans, blah, blah, blah.

But now that we’ve gotten that out the way, no country targets the US for intelligence exploitation as aggressively as China. I don’t think Lin joined the Navy with the intent of spying for a foreign power (unlike Johnny Walker Red’s son, whom John recruited into his spy ring before his kid joined the Nav) but clearly Lin had vulnerabilities.

Yet it’s the very people who we should be giving the greatest scrutiny to that we are giving the least. It’s like airport security; the TSA is taking apart some 95 year old South Dakotan Nowegian-American great-grandmother’s walker apart and sticking their hands into her underwear while waving some Pakistani passport holder who is wearing a t-shirt commemorating the attack on the WTC right on through security.

Yeah, it’s a systemic problem alright. But it’s not confined to the Navy.

inspectorudy | April 15, 2016 at 1:07 am

I just watched the old movie about the Iowa scandal when the big gun exploded and the way the Navy tried to cover it up. The Navy is and has been a joke for many years. That is not to say the men and women who serve in it are less than honorable but the tradition is the Navy first and truth and honor second. The laxity on board ships where some of the most sensitive things are held is appalling. It almost has an office like atmosphere and way too much exposure to non-cleared people.