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
U.S. Law Enforcement Bust 27 People Connected to Mexican Sinaloa Cartel
Over two dozen people were arrested on drug charges in connection to a Mexican cartel smuggling cocaine into the U.S. Following a two-year investigation, 27 people were arrested through Operation Tripwire, an investigation effort U.S. officials have been working on featuring members of the Sinaloa Cartel.
The trafficking network went from Los Angeles, California to Tucson, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where cocaine originating from Mexico was smuggled stateside. The United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady declared “this is a large organization that was trafficking hundreds of kilograms of cocaine throughout the country and has direct ties to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.”
U.S. authorities recounted that the investigations started after an agent in Pittsburgh was able to identify an address that received large quantities of suspicious-looking packages coming from California. Since then, agents started to do investigation on other members of the network across the U.S.
Across the span of seven months, authorities were able to intercept U.S. calls made by some of the alleged traffickers with Sinaloa carte leaders in Mexico. On September 9, 2020, 27 were arrested in Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania.
According to American authorities, $1.3 million in cash and over 140 kilograms of cocaine were seized. The aforementioned people arrested are now facing a prison sentence of between 10 years and life in prison.
The border situation is no joke. Prior administrations have largely neglected the issue and have allowed for unprecedented levels of illegal immigration and drug trafficking to cross the U.S. border.
In a prior instance, BLP reported on how Mexico is a failed state that cannot maintain public order and is largely being pushed around by cartels. Due to its proximity to the U.S., Mexico’s problems will likely spillover stateside.
This is why border security is crucial. Thankfully, the U.S. has a president in Donald Trump that gets the memo. He’ll still need help from Congress, however,
That’s why it’s crucial that America First Republicans have strong showings at all branches of government in 2020.
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