The first case of “economic espionage” has reached the trial phase in the United States. The case is against Dongfan "Greg" Chung, a 73-year old Chinese-born engineer who worked with various American defense contractors. The trial for Chung was scheduled to begin Tuesday June 2, 2009 in the U.S. District Court of Santa Ana, California.Prosecutors claim that Chung, during his tenure at Boeing and Rockwell International, used his position as an analyst to steal roughly 250,000 pages of sensitive material. According to the Washington Post these documents contained materials about the U.S. space shuttle, Delta IV rockets, and the C-17 military troop transport aircraft. After accumulating this material Chung is alleged to have then sent the documents to contacts in China.
According to U.S. District Attorney Greg Staples the accumulated specifications amount to “the difference between getting into space and ending up with a plaything for children in a park.”The U.S. prosecution team believes it has evidence linking Chung to spying operations beginning in the late 1970s and continuing actively until as recently as 2003 – when he last worked with an affiliated defense contractor as part of the research team investigating the Columbia disaster. During the intervening two decades Chung's illegally obtained materials would have been vital to the development of China’s space program and the eventual development of the China National Space Administration.
It is unclear how this particular case will turn out, Chung’s defense team believes that the charges will all be dropped due to a perceived statute of limitations ending in 2003. Furthermore this is the first case under the Economic Espionage Act that has made it to trial – all prior cases were settled out of court.Regardless of the outcome, this is certainly a wakeup call to members of the American defense, intelligence, and security infrastructure. It is a reminder that unfriendly nations still exist around the world, and are willing to do what it takes to advance their own agendas, goals and policies.