By Micaela Burrow, The Daily Caller News Foundation
Roughly 100 incidents where Chinese nationals have accessed or neared U.S. military bases and other sensitive locations have sparked suspicions of a wider espionage campaign driven by Beijing, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.
The FBI, Department of Defense and other agencies have dubbed the situation, where Chinese nationals appear to feign accidentally approaching high-security U.S. military installations and other federal sites, “gate crashing,” and held a review in 2022 to figure out a way to tamp down on the incidents, the WSJ reported, citing the officials.
The officials said the practice appears intended to stress-test security measures at the military sites as a form of low-effort reconnaissance or espionage.
Usually, the incidents involve Chinese nationals whom Beijing has forced into performing the operations and reporting back to the government, officials familiar with the matter told the WSJ.
In recent years, Chinese nationals were found photographing a missile range in New Mexico, as well as scuba diving in murky Florida waters that happened to be near a rocket launch site, according to the WSJ.
Sometimes, they claim Google Maps directed them to the nearest McDonalds or Burger King on a military base or made reservations for an on-base hotel.
They often revert to similar language when apprehended by security guards and pretend to be lost tourists.
Once, a group of Chinese nationals claiming to be tourists with reservations at a hotel on Fort Wainwright, Alaska, tried to push past gate guards, according to the WSJ.
Officials say the trend is only increasing in scope, according to the WSJ, and is often successful.
Chinese nationals gain access to military bases “often by speeding through security checkpoints,” Sue Gough, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told the WSJ. “These individuals are often cited criminally, barred from future installation access and escorted off-base.”
“The relevant claims are purely ill-intentioned fabrications,” said Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., told the WSJ. “We urge the relevant U.S. officials to abandon the Cold War mentality, stop groundless accusations, and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust between the two countries and friendship between the two peoples.”
The White House and Department of Homeland Security did not comment, while the Pentagon responded in vague terms and the FBI declined to comment on the officials’ claims, according to the WSJ.
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, who sits on the intelligence committee, said Congress is considering legislation to fill in the gap where states, not the federal government, are responsible for trespassing laws.
“We need to work closely with our state and local partners to train them and equip them,” he told the WSJ. “Right now, they don’t know how to deal with it.”
The Chinese embassy in the U.S. did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.