‘More subtle, more pernicious, more complex’: Justice Department Warns About China Election Efforts

‘More subtle, more pernicious, more complex’: Justice Department Warns About China Election Efforts

Americans may fall prey to China’s attempts to influence U.S. policy without even knowing it.

China’s efforts can be harder to detect than other U.S. adversaries attempts to disrupt American politics, a top U.S. Department of Justice official said Wednesday.

“Beijing’s methods are not always as blatant” as they used to be, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said. “The [People’s Republic of China] tactics are more subtle, more pernicious, more complex.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen official portrait. (U.S. Department of Justice photo)

“Beijing, for example, works relentlessly to co-opt seemingly independent middle men who can influence members of Congress on a host of policies,” he said at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

In general, malign foreign influence can take the form of disguised propaganda, pressuring people in power and hacking email accounts or phones.

The reliance on internet-based communication has created significant vulnerabilities for influence operations to be carried out and for their reach to be maximized, Rosen said.

“The internet, social media allow foreign actors to reach unprecedented numbers of Americans covertly, inexpensively and directly, without necessarily having to go through the traditional media, without even having to set foot on U.S. soil,” he said.

The Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency used this tactic to interfere in the 2016 election by sowing discord online, according to a 2018 indictment.

Before the U.S. shut down China’s consulate in Houston, it was the forefront of covert foreign influence, John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said earlier this month. Demers declined to give more details about the covert influence, indicating that the information was classified.

Other top national security officials have also warned about foreign influence efforts in the American political process by China, Russia and Iran.

China has “been expanding its influence efforts” in the U.S. ahead of the 2020 presidential election, William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in an Aug. 7 statement.

“China prefers that President Trump — whom Beijing sees as unpredictable — does not win reelection,” Evanina said.

 

Evanina did not allege China was attempting to hack the vote but said the country is working “to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China.”

Iran is also seeking to undermine Trump and divide Americans before the 2020 elections because of the Trump administration’s pressure on Iran over its nuclear weapons program, he said.

Russia remains a threat, Evanina said, and is trying to “denigrate” Biden and “boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)

 



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Starting at a Black Newspaper, Dana White Is the First Black Woman to Run Comms at a Major Automaker

Starting at a Black Newspaper, Dana White Is the First Black Woman to Run Comms at a Major Automaker

As Hyundai North America’s first chief communications officer, Dana W. White knows what it is like to have two feet in two worlds.

“Growing up I always knew about the power of communication, the power of words,” she said, talking about her childhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. “My grandfather, who was born in 1896, founded the oldest black newspaper in the state. I used to cut ad sheets every month and write copy and process black-and-white photos [at the paper]. The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in me and my family.”

While the weekly black newspaper, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune, is gone, the family’s entrepreneurial spirit lives on. “The environment I grew up in, my family, was that there was never just a pot of gold waiting for me at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “It’s in my DNA – to make it happen for yourself.”

Dr. Ben Chavis runs the trade group for African American newspaper publishers. “The National Newspapers Publishers Association salutes Hyundai for its decision to elevate an African-American woman leader to the position of Chief Communications Officer. In this year where the focus is on the empowerment of all women, Dana White represents and embodies the best of Black America,” he told Zenger News of White.

Dana White is no relation to the Ultimate Fighting Championship president with the same name.

Dana White poses for a photo outside Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, Cali. on August 7, 2020. (Carol Larsen/Zenger)

 

 

She studied hard in college, taking the toughest courses on purpose even if they were scheduled early in the morning and required long walks across Chicago wind-chilled campus. Those courses included learning to read, write and speak Mandarin, the mostly widely used of the Chinese-language dialects. She majored in Chinese history at the University of Chicago.

White thought hard about her choices in what to study; she didn’t just take the most popular courses or the easiest ones to earn a top grade. Of course, she said there are “easy” courses at the University of Chicago, which competes with the Ivy League for students. “At the time, nobody was thinking about China,” she said. “Everyone was terrified that Japan was taking over the world, but no one was thinking about this country of one billion people that was just sitting there, very quiet. I wanted to make sure I’d be employable for the next 50 years, find something that was valuable for the future. So, I decided to study Mandarin.”

She applied for scholarships to study in China’s capital, Beijing, and later in South Korea’s capital, Seoul. This on-the-ground experience would later prove pivotal in her career.

“I think it’s fascinating, working as a Black American within different cultures. In fact, sometimes I think it’s an advantage as I experience my home culture differently and therefore I think I’m much more observant and intrigued by people, their language and traditions. It’s helpful in translating best practices and communications,” she said. “Communication isn’t just about the literal words themselves, it’s about the feeling, impressions and the image you convey or defy.”

After college, she moved to Washington, DC without a job and worked as an intern and a temp to pay the bills while she applied for jobs on Capitol Hill.

The Republican committee for all GOP lawmakers, then chaired by Rep. J.C. Watts, the only Black Republican serving in Congress, was the first to call her back. She went on to take a series of jobs in government and in media, often working as the only black woman in the room. She accepted a job as deputy press secretary for the House Republican Conference, where she worked for two years until 2000.

 

Dana White briefs the press at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. in an undated photograph. (Sgt. Amber Smith/DOD)

 

Dana W. White, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), poses for her official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Dec 21, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

Then, she joined the public-relations team at Fox News between 2000 and 2001. Later, she went on to the Heritage Foundation, a think tank on Capitol Hill that is influential among Republicans. “I was director of the Heritage Foundation’s roundtable for Asia-Pacific journalists which was comprised of foreign correspondents from outlets such as The Nikkei and Asahi Shimbun and Chosun Ilbo.” she recalled. “I was overseeing some 400 different journalists from across Asia.” Her study in Chinese language and Asian culture had made her stand out. Her careful preparation was paying off in unexpected ways. “At Heritage, I met some wonderful reporters from Taiwan, Japan and Korea. It was so beneficial when I did my first stint at the Pentagon on the China Desk, then at Nissan and now Hyundai.”

Her studies and experience soon took her back to the federal government. President George W. Bush named her Taiwan Country Director at the Defense Department.

She returned to the private sector as an editor in the arts and culture section of The Wall Street Journal, the nation’s most widely read newspaper and based in Hong Kong.

Next, she was tapped as director of policy and strategic communications for the Renault–Nissan Alliance, a joint venture of the French and Japanese auto makers. They needed someone who understood both media and Asia – and she was one of the few that fit the bill. She soon became fluent in French and worked from Renault’s Paris headquarters. Still, she never forgot her roots, often phoning her mother, who was born during racial segregation, and then living in northern Virginia’s ever spreading suburbs.

She returned from Paris in 2015 and started her own public relations firm 1055 Grady, named in honor of her grandfather’s address in Charlottesville, where she was first inspired to be an entrepreneur. Back in Washington, DC, she was tapped by the Trump campaign to help with their strategic communications. Shortly after Donald J. Trump was sworn in, she was asked about taking a high profile spot back at the Pentagon. Her earlier stint at the Defense Department along with her knowledge and contacts in U.S. and foreign media perfectly positioned her to take the top spot as head of public affairs for the Defense Department. She was sworn in as Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Chief Pentagon Spokesperson on April 7, 2017.

It was also the same day the U.S. sent cruise missiles to strike Syria in response to its chemical-weapons attacks. Nearly one year to the day, she would go before the world to brief the U.S. strikes on Syria in response to a another chemical attack. She became the first black person to hold that prestigious post.

She reported directly to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis. When he resigned in 2018, she followed the same day. “I left DoD alongside Mattis because I believe in his integrity,” she said.

Mattis differed with President Trump on matters ranging from pulling troops out of Syria and Afghanistan to withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Now Dana White runs North American communications for Hyundai Motor Company, a South Korean car maker that builds more than half of its vehicles at its plant in Alabama and employs some 25,000 people in the United States. She joined the Zenger News Advisory Board in 2019.

White sees herself as a cross-cultural bridge.  At Hyundai Motor North America, she is the Chief Communications Officer—a first for Korean automaker in the U.S. She oversees communications for Hyundai Motor North America headquarters and all of Hyundai’s North America Affiliates including Canada and Mexico, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Glovis (Hyundai’s Logistics Operations), Mobis (Hyundai Parts Operations), Hyundai Capital and the Washington, DC Office. White also has strategic oversight of Hyundai’s luxury automotive brand Genesis, which will debut the GV80—the first SUV of the luxury brand.

Dana White poses for a photo inside Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, California on August 7, 2020. (Carol Larsen/Zenger)

 

Dana White poses for a photo outside Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, California on August 7, 2020. (Carol Larsen/Zenger)

“When I joined Hyundai a year ago, I knew I needed someone who understood decision making at the highest levels, storytelling and how to work across cultures seamlessly to deliver results. So, I called Dana,” said Jose Munoz, Global COO of Hyundai Motor Company and Pres. & CEO of Hyundai Motor North America. “It’s rare to find one person with all the skills, talents and experiences that she has. And she has proven track record of success. In few short months, Dana has already made a big difference in how we operate, communicate and tell the Hyundai story.”

Ultimately for White, she said her passions are education, excellence and empowerment. “I can still hear my grandfather’s gruff voice saying, ‘Mouse, I want you to be a smart little girl. Learn everything you can.’ I think about everything he survived, all the limits placed on his life and how if he could see me now—a man who proud to put pictures of my nursery school graduation in the paper—I know he’d say…’So, Mouse…what’s next?’”

Her father, Sherman R. White, graduated from Charlottesville’s segregated schools was also plaintiff in the desegregation of Charlottesville schools.  He attended Howard University at 16 years-old and later pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha.  There, he met her and married her mother Agnes Cross from Philadelphia, PA.  Her father was an AME minister and her mother one the first blacks to secure a civil service job in the state of Pennsylvania.

Her cousin Cheryl was the President of the local Williamsburg chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In high school, Dana was awarded a merit scholarship from the University of Virginia Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. And her older brother is a graduate of Hampton University

“The thing about me is that I’m propelled by history and obsessed with the future. I’m passionate about ideas and a mission. I want to see people move forward—know their past and explore their future,” she said. “It’s in my family—this spirit of perseverance. I feel like they handed me a baton. They all ran hard and ran fast and carried the baton as far as they could go. Now, it’s my responsibility to take that baton and run farther and faster and pass the baton to the next generation. I say, ‘When you stand on the shoulders of slaves, don’t slouch!’”

(Edited by Robert George and Richard Miniter.)



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Chinese Fakeout: Closed Consulate Was Front for Espionage and I.P. Theft, FBI Claims

Chinese Fakeout: Closed Consulate Was Front for Espionage and I.P. Theft, FBI Claims

China’s consulate in Houston has long been under the watch of the FBI for espionage activity, the U.S. Department of Justice’s top national security official said Wednesday.

Chinese consulate workers frantically burned documents in the building’s courtyard following the U.S. ordering it to shut down in July, citing the need to protect intellectual property and Americans’ personal information.

“Houston has long been on the radar screen of the FBI as a source both of significant intellectual property theft emanating from it, including recruitment to the talent program, spotting and assessing folks,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

The consulate was also the forefront of covert foreign influence, Demers said at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. He indicated the information was classified and did not give further details.

“It was not chosen at random out of the consulates out there,” Demers said.

Through the China Initiative, the Justice department has made prosecuting trade theft, hacking and economic espionage cases a priority. It has also scrutinized China’s Thousand Talents Program, which seeks to recruit academics, scientists and entrepreneurs to bring their research to China.

The FBI has more than 2,000 active investigations linked to the Chinese government and the bureau opens a new counterintelligence case relating to China every 10 hours, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. From 2010 to 2020, there has been a 1,300% increase in economic espionage cases connected to China, Wray has said. FBI spokeswoman Kelsey Pietranton declined to clarify the baseline for the increase.

Since the U.S. Department of Justice launched the initiative in 2018, about 80% of economic espionage prosecutions and 60% of trade theft cases have been linked to China, according to the department.

China has an embassy in Washington, D.C., and four other consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco.

Beijing responded to the Houston closure by closing the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

Unlike the 2017 closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco, there was no out-of-the-ordinary allegations of espionage before the Houston closure. The Justice department has regularly charged scientists and others with theft of trade secrets, visa fraud, and making false statements among other charges.

The Trump administration closed Russia’s San Francisco consulate after Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election. It shuttered the Seattle consulate in 2018 in retaliation for Russia’s alleged use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

A U.S. intelligence official issued a public warning on Aug. 7 that China “has been expanding its influence efforts” in the U.S. ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

“China prefers that President Trump — whom Beijing sees as unpredictable — does not win reelection,” said the warning from William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Evanina did not accuse China of trying to hack the vote, but said Beijing was attempting “to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China.”

Russia has continued meddling in U.S. elections by trying to “denigrate” Biden, he said. “Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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Closed Chinese consulate linked to intellectual theft and espionage as investigations soar

Closed Chinese consulate linked to intellectual theft and espionage as investigations soar

China’s consulate in Houston has long been under the watch of the FBI for espionage activity, the U.S. Department of Justice’s top national security official said Wednesday.

Chinese consulate workers frantically burned documents in the building’s courtyard following the U.S. ordering it to shut down in July, citing the need to protect intellectual property and Americans’ personal information.

“Houston has long been on the radar screen of the FBI as a source both of significant intellectual property theft emanating from it, including recruitment to the talent program, spotting and assessing folks,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

The consulate was also the forefront of covert foreign influence, Demers said at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. He indicated the information was classified and did not give further details.

“It was not chosen at random out of the consulates out there,” Demers said.

Through the China Initiative, the Justice department has made prosecuting trade theft, hacking and economic espionage cases a priority. It has also scrutinized China’s Thousand Talents Program, which seeks to recruit academics, scientists and entrepreneurs to bring their research to China.

The FBI has more than 2,000 active investigations linked to the Chinese government and the bureau opens a new counterintelligence case relating to China every 10 hours, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. From 2010 to 2020, there has been a 1,300% increase in economic espionage cases connected to China, Wray has said. FBI spokeswoman Kelsey Pietranton declined to clarify the baseline for the increase.

Since the U.S. Department of Justice launched the initiative in 2018, about 80% of economic espionage prosecutions and 60% of trade theft cases have been linked to China, according to the department.

China has an embassy in Washington, D.C., and four other consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco.

Beijing responded to the Houston closure by closing the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

Unlike the 2017 closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco, there was no out-of-the-ordinary allegations of espionage before the Houston closure. The Justice department has regularly charged scientists and others with theft of trade secrets, visa fraud, and making false statements among other charges.

The Trump administration closed Russia’s San Francisco consulate after Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election. It shuttered the Seattle consulate in 2018 in retaliation for Russia’s alleged use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

A U.S. intelligence official issued a public warning on Aug. 7 that China “has been expanding its influence efforts” in the U.S. ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

“China prefers that President Trump — whom Beijing sees as unpredictable — does not win reelection,” said the warning from William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Evanina did not accuse China of trying to hack the vote, but said Beijing was attempting “to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China.”

Russia has continued meddling in U.S. elections by trying to “denigrate” Biden, he said. “Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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FBI: Few errors found on wiretapping applications

FBI: Few errors found on wiretapping applications

Errors discovered in the FBI’s applications to wiretap suspected foreign spies and terrorists did not undercut the applications, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday.

The FBI audited 29 applications that were presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in recent years after a report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general found “significant errors and omissions” in the bureau’s applications to wiretap a former Trump campaign aide.

A review of the 29 applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants found 203 false statements or omissions, but the Justice department and FBI said only two of those were “material,” according to a partly redacted court submission released Monday.

“The government has identified only one material misstatement and one material omission, neither of which are assessed to have invalidated the authorizations granted by the court in the applicable dockets,” wrote Melissa MacTough, the deputy assistant attorney general for national security.

 

“Non-material” errors included typographical errors, date discrepancies, the misidentification of sources or the inability to locate a supporting document, MacTough said.

The audit looked at more than 6,700 “factual assertions” within the 29 FISA applications, Dawn Browning, acting general counsel for the FBI, said in a sworn statement.

“The complete absence in the twenty-nine applications of material errors impacting probable cause should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of its FISA authorities,” Browning said. “Indeed, the overwhelming majority of factual assertions — approximately 6,568 — were determined not to be erroneous at all, materially or otherwise.”

Some critics of the FISA process were skeptical of the results.

“The officials reviewing the applications come from the same parts of the department that made the errors in the first place. They have every incentive to downplay the significance of the errors. I would have much more confidence if the analysis of the significance of the mistakes had been conducted by the office that discovered them, namely, the Office of the Inspector General. The attorney general could have asked the OIG to do this review, but didn’t,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“Even if it were true that only two of the errors in the 29 applications reviewed were ‘material,’ that’s nothing to be proud of. In just the past three years, the Department of Justice has submitted 3,270 applications to conduct electronic surveillance under Title I of FISA. Based on the rate of material error found by DOJ, we can expect that there were roughly 225 material errors in those applications. With that many material errors, you can be fairly confident that at least some surveillance orders were issued that otherwise would not have been. That’s a serious miscarriage of justice,” she said.

U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz found serious errors with the FBI’s surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, according to a report he released in December on the early stages of the Russia investigation. The Justice department said in January that the final two of the four warrants against Page were invalid, indicating that the department believed the surveillance on the Trump aide should have ended in early 2017.

The FBI sought to surveil Page in connection with its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he was never charged with any wrongdoing.

“These new findings reaffirm that the FISA warrant process, thankfully, isn’t suffering from a systemic problem, but also that the problems with the Carter Page warrant process were uniquely concerning,” said Brad Moss, a national security attorney.

“There were mistakes that, in hindsight, were rather clear in how the Page process was pursued and that need to be rectified to prevent similar errors in the future. What remains unclear is if political gamesmanship will prevent proper reforms from being implemented that would save this critical national security tool,” Moss said.

When reached Tuesday, Page declined to comment on the latest FISA review, saying he had not had time to look over it but he would have more to say on the process in his forthcoming book.

(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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