Risk
5/14/2009
05:34 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

U.S. Defense Department Official Charged With Espionage

A civilian employee at the Pentagon has been charged with conspiring to provide classified information to an agent with ties to the People's Republic of China.

In an expansion of an espionage investigation disclosed last year, a Defense Department official has been charged with conspiring to provide classified information to an agent with ties to the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The accused, James Wilbur Fondren Jr., 62, was a civilian employee at the Pentagon and the deputy director of the Washington Liaison Office of the U.S. Pacific Command. He retired from active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1996. He has been on administrative leave since February 2008, when the Justice Department announced the arrests of several individuals for stealing military aerospace secrets and sending them to China.

One of the individuals arrested last year was Tai Shen Kuo, a furniture businessman and a naturalized U.S. citizen. Another was former Defense Department employee Gregg William Bergersen.

In March 2008, Bergersen pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide U.S. defense information to China and was later sentenced to almost five years in prison.

In May 2008, Kuo pleaded guilty to similar charges. He subsequently was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. Kuo was a close associate of Fondren's and was a guest at Fondren's house at the time of his arrest. Fondren allegedly believed Kuo to have ties with officials in Taiwan rather than with the PRC.

The FBI affidavit in Kuo's case describes a sweeping surveillance operation directed at Kuo. In addition to physical surveillance, the FBI monitored his e-mail accounts at Bellsouth.net, Gmail, and Hotmail, as well as his telephone communications. The agency also covertly copied the hard drive on Kuo's laptop and placed audiovisual surveillance equipment in a car Kuo rented.

The FBI affidavit filed as part of the case against Fondren suggests that the agency's eavesdropping operation helped incriminate Fondren as well as Kuo. It includes transcripts of several conversations between Fondren and Kuo about the transfer of classified information that allegedly occurred in Fondren's Annandale, Va., home.

Dana J. Boente, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, called the allegations in the Fondren case "troubling" and said, "The U.S. government places considerable trust in those given access to classified information, and we are committed to prosecuting those who abuse that trust."

Rick Howard, director of security intelligence at VeriSign iDefense, said that this kind of espionage goes on all the time. "All governments have espionage operations where they're trying to turn people to give them inside information," he said.

It's noteworthy, he said, that this isn't cyberespionage. "It's traditional spy-vs.-spy stuff," he said.

Howard said that while every organization that deals with sensitive information has procedures to protect that information, "it's not too hard to defeat those things if you're determined."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-6306
Published: 2014-08-22
Unspecified vulnerability on IBM Power 7 Systems 740 before 740.70 01Ax740_121, 760 before 760.40 Ax760_078, and 770 before 770.30 01Ax770_062 allows local users to gain Service Processor privileges via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-0232
Published: 2014-08-22
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in framework/common/webcommon/includes/messages.ftl in Apache OFBiz 11.04.01 before 11.04.05 and 12.04.01 before 12.04.04 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors, which are not properly handled in a (1)...

CVE-2014-3525
Published: 2014-08-22
Unspecified vulnerability in Apache Traffic Server 4.2.1.1 and 5.x before 5.0.1 has unknown impact and attack vectors, possibly related to health checks.

CVE-2014-3563
Published: 2014-08-22
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in Salt (aka SaltStack) before 2014.1.10 allow local users to have an unspecified impact via vectors related to temporary file creation in (1) seed.py, (2) salt-ssh, or (3) salt-cloud.

CVE-2014-3594
Published: 2014-08-22
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Host Aggregates interface in OpenStack Dashboard (Horizon) before 2013.2.4, 2014.1 before 2014.1.2, and Juno before Juno-3 allows remote administrators to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a new host aggregate name.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Three interviews on critical embedded systems and security, recorded at Black Hat 2014 in Las Vegas.