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US Intelligence Agencies Warned Against Racial Profiling People of Chinese Descent

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: June 3, 2022
The CIA symbol is shown on the floor of CIA Headquarters at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on July 9, 2004. (Image: Charles Ommanney via Getty Images)

Following the Biden administration’s suspension of the China Initiative program earlier this year, the FBI, CIA and other American intelligence agencies are now being reminded not to target and view Chinese Americans as a greater security threat than people from other backgrounds. 

According to a May 31 report made public by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the agencies are not allowed to single out Chinese nationals for additional surveillance solely based on their race, and “must ensure that their intelligence activities protect the privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights of Chinese Americans and all other Americans,” the report said.

“While continuing to combat the significant national security threat posed by the PRC [People’s Republic of China], IC agencies and components must ensure that their security clearance processes and monitoring programs are acting in accordance with all rights and protections awarded to all U.S. citizens, including Americans of Chinese descent,” the report concluded.

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The report appears to be based on allegations that U.S. intelligence programs and agencies were disproportionately targeting Chinese Americans for crimes related to economic and trade espionage. 

The 22-page report was required by a provision of the fiscal 2020 Defense Authorization Act that sought to study the correlation between intelligence agencies’ operations targeting China, and how these activities were affecting the privacy and civil liberties of individuals of Asian descent, as reported by The Washington Times.

Defunct China Initiative

The China Initiative, which was launched in 2018 under the Trump administration, aimed to root out and surveil suspected economic espionage, trade theft and technology transfer at the hands of PRC spies. According to FBI Director Christoper Wray, as of February 2020, the program was conducting roughly 1,000 investigations across 56 regional offices into China’s attempted theft of trade secrets.

On Feb. 23, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would be ending the program because it “fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias,” and created a negative effect on scientific collaboration and recruitment by U.S. research institutions looking to hire professionals from other countries. 

DOJ National Security Division Chief, Matthew Olsen, said the program’s cancellation came after the DOJ received hundreds of complaints from civil rights groups and activists accusing the program of unfairly targeting Asian Americans, resulting in racial profiling. 

Olsen said that despite the program’s end, the U.S. would continue to clamp down on violators attempting to steal U.S. trade secrets and intelligence. After the China initiative was terminated, the DOJ announced the establishment of a broader plan called the “Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats” that will aim to tackle increasingly “aggressive and nefarious” activity from countries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. 

“Make no mistake – we will be relentless in defending our country from China,” Olsen said. “But our review convinced us that a new approach is needed to tackle the most severe threats.”

80 percent of trade-secret theft cases tied to China

Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general under the Trump administration, said the recently terminated program wasn’t targeting Chinese Americans, but rather the Chinese regime and its constituents.

“It is targeted specifically at the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], that has been destabilizing our country,” Whitaker said in an interview with EpochTV’s “China Insider” program on Feb. 25 after the China Initiative program was officially canceled.

“Intellectual property theft is costing us hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.” Whitaker said, adding that, “China is not an honest partner on the world stage. They’re just not, and they shouldn’t be trusted.” According to the DOJ’s 2021 year-end report, since the early 2000s, Chinese spies have stolen between $200 and $600 billion worth of trade secrets from American corporations — particularly in areas of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics.