US Justice Department has filed charges in a case that raises more questions than answers. The central figure is Bo Jiang, a Chinese researcher at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Jiang was arrested Saturday night on a plane as it pulled away from the gate at Dulles International Airport bound for China. An FBI affidavit filed in support of the charges against Jiang says he "was leaving the United States abruptly to return to China on a one-way ticket."
The affidavit also says Jiang was questioned by federal agents about electronic devices he was carrying. He allegedly said that he was carrying a cell phone, a memory stick, an external hard drive and a new computer.
But agents discovered several items that Jiang failed to disclose, including "an additional laptop, an old hard drive and a SIM card." Federal prosecutors then filed charges that Jiang lied to federal investigators. He appeared briefly in federal court in Norfolk Monday and will remain in custody at least until a detention hearing on Thursday.
Jiang is facing more serious accusations, but not from the Justice Department. Representative Frank Wolf whose district includes the NASA research facility, is accusing Jiang of being "a Chinese spy."
Appearing at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wolf, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA, says Jiang worked on programs involving "source code for high technology imaging" that could be used by the military. Wolf says he spoke out after being contacted by NASA whistleblowers who claim “Jiang and other Chinese nationals have traveled to China with laptops containing NASA research work”.
Wolf revealed Jiang's name publicly last Wednesday, the same day the FBI launched its counter-intelligence investigation. With the FBI investigation only five days old, agents are still digging through the devices Jiang was carrying and scouring his background to see if the whistleblower allegations yield additional charges.
NASA did not respond to an email request for comment.