Politics

China’s Extensive ‘Honey Trap’ Spy Network Could Involve Thousands Of Ploys Underway Now, Ex-Operative Says

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It is the stuff of a James Bond blockbuster: a young, attractive woman lures a rising political star into a romantic web, all the while collecting critical information to trickle back to her handler or big bosses back home.

Axios revealed this week that more than six years ago Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., began a relationship with a woman suspected of being a Chinese espionage operative. He was alerted by federal investigators in 2015 and given a “defense briefing,” which resulted in him breaking off ties to the suspect.

However, Swalwell wouldn’t be the first or last political figure to be “honey-trapped” – with multiple former intelligence officials surmising that such schemes carried out by Chinese spies have long played out on U. S. soil, and remain ongoing.

“I can say with a high level of confidence that there are many more of these women out there,” Daniel Hoffman, a retired CIA Senior Clandestine Services Officer, told Fox News. “China’s MO is to flood the zone.”

While several current and former intelligence and security officials and experts interviewed by Fox News said that it was impossible to put a number on just how many honey trap scenarios might be in motion at present, one former defense and intelligence operative noted that it could be well into the hundreds – if not thousands. Such spies are assumed to be at top universities, known to speak perfect English, and routinely use social media platforms such as Linkedin and Facebook to connect with their prey.

But it is not only about enmeshing big names – it is about having an eye for talent, and starting when one’s star is about to begin rising.

In Swalwell’s case, he was seemingly ensnared by a woman named Christine Fang or Fang Fang, who helped raise money for his 2014 congressional re-election campaign and recruited at least one intern in his office.

However, U. S. investigators in the northern California Bay Area believe Fang was also circling close to numerous up-and-coming politicians between 2011 and 2015, engaging in sexual relationships with at least two mayors in other states.

According to the report, Fang was sent to gather information and attain influence on those rising in the ranks at the direct behest of China’s Ministry of State Security, with a “handler” based out of the San Fransisco consulate.

In 2015, her most high profile associate – Swalwell – became a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. However, around that time, Fang abruptly fled the U. S. as the FBI was homing in.

But unlike Fang, whose communications with the consulate came under scrutiny, Hoffman asserted that there are likely many more who have zero links to any officials.

“The goal is to become a trusted individual with who (the target) can share information. The spy here would have wanted to learn everything she could about his personality, every little detail of his leadership style to build a profile,” Hoffman said. “The idea here is to latch on to someone like a Swalwell when they are a junior and make contacts. It is much harder to do that when someone is already big and well-known. (This spy) recognized that.”

Indeed, the California Democrat is seemingly not alone in having fallen for the bait.

“The females who are employed in this tactic place themselves in a position where they come into contact with the targeted individual. The target is almost always a male, but there have been some instances of females also falling prey to this,” observed Del Wilber, a former U. S. intelligence officer. “The goal is to get the target into a compromising position, usually with photos or video evidence of their indiscretions.”

Wilber underscored that married men are most often the targets, but at one point homosexual behavior was also targeted and used against individuals.

“Once compromised, they are told to cooperate, or else their actions will be disclosed and they’ll be divorced, lose their government clearance and their job, etc.,” he asserted.

Multiple former intelligence officials told Fox News that China, while one of the dozens of countries that relies heavily on the honey trap tactic, has perfected it with a spattering of stratagems and techniques, used for different purposes with varying motivations.

And it is not only the likes of Swalwell, the main target, which the operatives want to glean but also those around them. Thus, many befriend aides, junior staffers, interns and the like to build a more comprehensive profile of the “high-value target.”

While covert Chinese operatives in recent times have come to be heavily associated with cyber espionage and hacking, the human intelligence gathering, termed “HUMINT,” remains a traditional staple.

In terms of intellectual property (I. P) theft, there is the colloquially-dubbed “mushroom.” This entails canvassing business proposals from companies in the U.S. and continuing to rebuff the applications and push for improved bids – all the while stealing the ideas and technical elements. Chinese I.P. theft has cost the United States $225 billion to $600 billion a year.

In other cases, the honey trap can be centered on collecting incriminating intelligence personally and professionally, to later de… (Read more)

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