On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, the New York Times reported that F.B,I. agents arrested Charles M. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, for making a false statement to federal authorities about his financial connections to the Chinese government and his involvement in the Thousand Talents program, a campaign used to draw foreign-educated scientists to China.
This arrest marked a new phase where the Justice Department is ramping up its campaign to smoke out scientists who steal research from American laboratories.
In the past few months, news about scientists being prosecuted, above all, Chinese graduate students and researchers working in American laboratories, has been on the uptick.
The Lieber arrest does mark a significant turn of events, since he is a renowned researcher that has moved into the highest echelons of his academic field. Lieber is a leader in the area of nanoscale electronics.
Dr. Lieber’s lawyer, Peter Levitt, offered no remarks after a preliminary hearing in federal court in Boston on Tuesday.
His arrest surprised many individuals in research circles.
“This is a very, very highly esteemed, highly regarded investigator working at Harvard, a major U.S. institution, at the highest rank he could have, so, all the success you can have in this sphere,” declared Dr. Ross McKinney Jr., chief scientific officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. “It’s like, when you’ve got it all, why do you want more?”
“We worry that, slowly but surely, we’re going to have something of a McCarthyish purity testing,” he continued. “He’s being criminally charged. This is a big deal. He could end up in jail.”
Lieber was charged with one count of making a false or misleading statement, which generally involves a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Harvard stated that Dr. Lieber was placed on indefinite administrative leave.
“The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious,” said Jonathan Swain, a spokesman for Harvard. “Harvard is cooperating with federal authorities, including the National Institutes of Health, and is initiating its own review of the alleged misconduct.”
Dr. Lieber was one of three scientists to be charged with crimes that very day.
Zaosong Zheng, a cancer researcher affiliated with Harvard was caught leaving the country with 21 vials of cells stolen from a laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, according to a report from the authorities. Authorities claimed that he confessed to planning to jumpstart his career by publishing the research in China under his name. The Chinese national was charged with smuggling goods from the United States and with making false statements.
The third individual charged was Yanqing Ye, who had been carrying out research at Boston University’s department of physics, chemistry and biomedical engineering until last spring. At that time, she ended up returning to China. Prosecutors said she concealed the fact that she was an officer in the People’s Liberation Army. Regardless, she continued to complete military assignments under the order of PLA officers while doing work at B.U.
Yanqing was hit with charges of visa fraud, making false statements, acting as an agent of a foreign government, and conspiracy. She is currently in China and was not arrested.
Prosecutors highlighted that the charges announced on Tuesday were part of a comprehensive crackdown on researchers affiliated with the Chinese government.
“No country poses a greater, more severe or long-term threat to our national security and economic prosperity than China,” declared Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent heading the F.B.I.’s Boston field office. “China’s communist government’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world superpower, and they are breaking the law to get there.”
The charging documents in this case detail Dr. Lieber’s extensive ties to China, and his attempts to keep them away from his American employers.
According to the court document, Lieber signed an agreement in 2011 to become a “strategic scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology in China, which came with a $50,000 monthly salary, $150,000 in annual in living expenses, and more than $1.5 million allocated for a second laboratory in Wuhan.
In 2015, Harvard officials found that Dr. Lieber was in charge of a laboratory at Wuhan University, and informed him that using Harvard’s name and logo was a violation of university policy. As a result of this statement from the university, Dr. Lieber distanced himself from the project, but continued to receive compensation, prosecutors claimed
Democrats Introduce Expanded Background Check Legislation
Democrats are going to implement a background check which targets “extremism.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and California Congressman Mike Thompson brought forward legislation on March 2, 2021 that aims to broaden the federal background check system on firearms sales, according to a report by The Hill.
Under The Background Check Expansion Act, gun sales and purchases between all unlicensed sellers and buyers would be subject to a mandatory background check. The background checks would not be applicable for law enforcement officers, lending out firearms for the purpose of hunting, temporary transfers for self-defense, or family members gifting a firearm.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 43 Senate Democrats have co-sponsored this bill. Thompson, who is the chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, reintroduced this legislation in the U.S. House
“For years, the bipartisan House-passed background checks bill languished in the Senate under Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, with Senate Democrats in the Majority, we have the opportunity to act on this overwhelmingly popular, lifesaving legislation to protect American communities,” Schumer declared in a press release.
According to a CBS News report, President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass stiffer gun control laws. This gun control bill will not pass so easily given how it will need 10 Republican senators to vote in favor of it.
Against the backdrop of the January 6 storming of the Capitol, such a background check will likely feature provisions that target so-called “extremists.” The ruling class has routinely lumped average gun owners with domestic extremists and will most certainly use recent events to justify encroachments on people’s right to bear arms.
Biden is a veteran of the gun control movement, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. With Democrats in control of all branches of the federal government, they will certainly move to pass gun control. However, their success is not guaranteed due to moderate Democrats like Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Joe Manchin not being completely receptive to radical gun control that could alienate them from their more right-wing constituents.
Nevertheless, the Left has shown that it’s willing to act regardless of the political context. Keeping this in mind, gun owners must be ready to beat back any kind of gun control coming from D.C. Such fights will allow the Right to rebuild its forces and make a splash in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential race.
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