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China has engaged in a decades-long campaign to introduce and recruit allied researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, according to a report from information security firm Strider Technologies.
The report confirmed that between 1987 and 2021, at least 162 scientists who passed through the nuclear research laboratory returned and worked with the Chinese government.
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Of those, 15 were permanent employees, many of whom held very high levels of security clearance.
Scientists ‘returned to [People’s Republic of China] to support a variety of domestic R&D programs,” according to the report.
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The assessment continues, “Of these fifteen, thirteen were recruited into government talent programs in the People’s Republic of China; some were responsible for sponsoring visiting scholars and postdoctoral scholars from the People’s Republic of China, and some received US government funding for sensitive research.”
Strider Technologies found that “at least one of these employees holds a US Department of Energy (DOE) Q Clearance certification allowing access to highly classified and national security restricted data.”
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The US Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General said in 2015 that a lack of management oversight in the lab led to inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information.
In 1999, scientist Wen Ho Lee was accused of mishandling nuclear weapons laws, but the government’s case collapsed and ended with a court deal that freed the Taiwanese-born scientist.
The following year, two computer hard drives containing materials related to highly classified nuclear materials disappeared, only to mysteriously appear behind a copier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.