Biden DOJ canceled special Trump-era program focused on stopping Chinese espionage

Over the course of the days-long Chinese spy balloon saga, President Joe Biden and his administration have faced sharp criticism over how that blatant and egregious violation of U.S. airspace and national sovereignty was handled.

Now come accusations that the Biden administration is actually complicit in the whole affair, namely by its cancelation of a special program launched under Biden’s predecessor that was devoted to specifically watching for and guarding against Chinese espionage in the U.S., the Daily Wire reported.

That program within the Justice Department was known simply as the China Initiative, but it was canceled nearly a year ago due to complaints and misconceptions that it was discriminatory and racist.

DOJ’s China Initiative launched in 2018

It was in Nov. 2018 that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech about combating Chinese espionage, primarily of the economic variety but also military, that was occurring on a regular basis inside the U.S.

During that speech, Sessions announced the creation of the new China Initiative centered in the DOJ’s National Security Division that would “identify priority Chinese trade theft cases, ensure that we have enough resources dedicated to them, and make sure that we bring them to an appropriate conclusion quickly and effectively.”

“This will help us meet the new and evolving threats to our economy,” he said. “Today, we see Chinese espionage not just taking place against traditional targets like our defense and intelligence agencies, but against targets like research labs and universities, and we see Chinese propaganda disseminated on our campuses.”

FBI’s Wray admits Chinese espionage a major problem

Per the Daily Wire, the concern about Chinese espionage expressed by former Attorney General Sessions in that 2018 speech was also shared by FBI Director Chris Wray, even as recently as Feb. 2022, according to statements he made in an interview at that time with NBC News.

Wray revealed that he had been “shocked” to learn of the “sheer scale” of Chinese espionage when he first became the director in 2017, and told the outlet, “This one blew me away. And I’m not the kind of guy that uses words like ‘blown away’ easily.”

“There is no country that presents a broader, more severe threat to our innovation, our ideas, and our economic security than China does,” he said, and further noted that a new investigation into alleged Chinese espionage was opened roughly every 12 hours or so.

Wray went on to describe the espionage as “more brazen, more damaging than ever before,” and in terms of cyber-espionage, said, “The scale of their hacking program, and the amount of personal and corporate data that their hackers have stolen, is greater than every other country combined.”

Special initiative canceled over complaints and “narratives”

That NBC News article made note of some of the complaints that had been levied against the Trump-era China Initiative at the DOJ, and it would appear that those complaints were either taken to heart by the Biden administration or exploited as a convenient excuse to end the special program focused on the admittedly serious problem of Chinese spying in America.

Indeed, in remarks delivered just a few weeks later in Feb. 2022 by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, head of the DOJ’s NSD, he first outlined the legitimate threats posed by China, only to then announced that the decision had been made to disband the China Initiative focused on the very problems he had just highlighted.

“We have heard concerns from the civil rights community that the ‘China Initiative’ fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias,” Olsen said, as well as the “narrative” that the DOJ “treats people from China or of Chinese descent differently.” He also mentioned “increasing concerns from the academic and scientific community about the department’s pursuit of certain research grant fraud cases” that could “lead to a chilling atmosphere for scientists and scholars that damages the scientific enterprise in this country.”

In the end, Olsen made clear in his speech that the Biden DOJ was willing to accept the trade-off of the potential for ongoing Chinese espionage — which would now be handled as part of a broader effort against multiple rival nations — rather than be accused of discrimination or racism from those engaged in or adjacent to that ongoing Chinese espionage that threatens and undermines national security and sovereignty.

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