Lax Security and a Laptop of Secrets: Chinese Contractor for NASA Nabbed

"This begs the question: how many Chinese nationals currently work at NASA? How many other foreign nationals from designated countries work at NASA?" he said. "We have not yet received a response from NASA after the question was raised during our hearing with the IG last week. This case has raised important issues that NASA and the Congress must consider, including whether contractors and universities working with NASA are unwittingly contributing to this problem."

The solution, he said, must be a complete audit of each of NASA's contractors employing foreign nationals.

Wolf originally called a press conference back on March 7 after whistleblowers from NASA Langley contacted his office with concerns that a Chinese national -- later identified as Jiang -- was receiving restricted access and information. In the course of the investigation, the congressman's office learned there were security rules under which Jiang was granted access to Langley that weren't followed, such as requiring an escort at all times and allowing access to information only in the public domain.

According to an internal NASA email, a Langley official wrote of Jiang's access: “I think there are times when rules do definitely apply… and I think there are times for exceptions… I am asking for an exception in this case.”

“I think it would be in the government’s best interests to be able to continue our work with him and the best use of taxpayers money," the official added.

"Unfortunately, I believe that this lax security culture, as exemplified by these comments, may be a problem at other NASA centers," Wolf said. "That’s why we need a comprehensive review of security enforcement at all centers and compliance by all contractors employing foreign nationals."

Jiang was arraigned in federal court Monday afternoon in Norfolk, charged with making a false statement to federal law enforcement officials.

On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. appears before Wolf's committee to explain the security flaws.

After the first signs of something amiss at Langley, Wolf called for Bolden to take seven steps, including appointing an outside panel to review foreign national access and export controls and stripping access for all foreign nationals with ties to suspect organizations or foreign governments.

While these reviews are being conducted, he said, a moratorium should be placed on the granting of any new credentials to foreign nationals from designated countries of concern.

It's natural that a whistleblower would pick Wolf for this case: in 2006, the congressman's office computers were attacked by Chinese government hackers.

Earlier this month, he called the conversation about Chinese espionage "a national conversation that is long overdue."

"It is these experiences that inform my efforts as chairman of this subcommittee and have resulted in the bill and report language we have carried to help agencies better mitigate potential threats, including the 2011 statute restricting NASA’s collaboration with the Chinese space programs, which is run by the People’s Liberation Army," Wolf said. "Again, this is the same People's Liberation Army that is responsible for the repression of the Chinese people, including brutally opening fire on Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, and for the espionage operation targeting our country."