DAVE & DUJANOVIC

To steal secrets, spies from China bide their time, former FBI agent says

Dec 11, 2020, 6:09 PM
swalwell china spies...
FILE: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., right, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, on oversight of the Justice Department and a probe into the politicization of the department under Attorney General William Barr. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to stealing US government secrets, China and its spies are prepared to play the long game, according to a former FBI agent who used to work in Utah.

A Chinese national named Fang Fang, or Christine Fang, allegedly targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the Bay Area in Northern California and across the country who were likely to become successful on the national stage, according to Axios.

Target selected

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., was the most high-profile of Fang’s targets. She was involved in his 2014 re-election campaign, according to a Bay Area political operative and a U.S. intelligence official, Axios reported, but the political operative, who witnessed Fang fundraising on Swalwell’s behalf, found no evidence of illegal contributions.

Retired FBI supervisor Karl Schmae spoke with KSL’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic about the  20-something-year-old Fang who came to the US purportedly to attend college in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she ended up infiltrating political campaigns.

Schmae said the scheme Swalwell got caught up  in is called a “honey pot,” where an attractive woman is used to put a high-value male target into a compromising position — describing it as a favorite method for spies from China.

“This really shows you how persistent and how patient the Chinese are,” Schmae explained. 

China spies: the long game

Swalwell has refused to confirm or deny whether he had a sexual or romantic relationship with Fang. Swalwell’s office did not respond Friday to a request for comment from Fox News asking again about the nature of his relationship with Fang.

In 2010, beginning with his time as a Dublin (Calif.) city councilor, Fang targeted Swalwell as reported by Business Insider on Dec. 8.

Swalwell was first elected to the US House in 2012.

“[Dublin] is a small town in the Bay Area, so he’s kinda a nobody, right? He’s a small-town politician.  . . . If she’d been operating in Utah, this would be like if she targeted some guy in St. George or Heber City. . . The Chinese are willing to play the long game. They’re hoping these guys will come up through the ranks and rise up to national prominence, get elected to national office and then be in a position where they have access to some of our country’s most sensitive secrets,” Schmae said.

Cutting ties

As the counterintelligence probe grew, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that around 2015 they alerted Swalwell to their concerns. Swalwell immediately cut off all ties to Fang, according to a U.S. intelligence official. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing, according to the Axios report.

Swalwell is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. He also ran for president of the United States but withdrew before the Democratic convention in August 2020.

“One thing that we should point out is that while this romancing of Swalwell was going on, allegedly, as reported by Axios,” Schmae said, “. . . this was kinda before he was on the House Committee for Intelligence. What we have to remember is this is an old case. This was from five years ago.”

“She got the heck out of here”

When the FBI informed Swalwell what was happening, Fang “caught wind that the FBI was on to her and fled” the United States, said Schmae. 

“What happens if you catch the spot? What’s the consequences?” Dave asked.

“So if she had been caught, she could’ve been charged with espionage — capital offense. That’s why she got the heck out of here,” Schmae replied. 

He explained that a foreign diplomat or ambassador on official business who is caught spying would be expelled from the United States and not face jail time because international envoys have diplomatic immunity.

“But someone like Christine Fang, she could have gone to jail for life or faced capital punishment, potentially. That’s why she got the heck out of here,” Schmae said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

Today’s Top Stories

Dave & Dujanovic

FILE - This Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, file photo shows application icons from left, Facebook, Facebook...
Curt Gresseth

Expert gives tips on conquering your downward social media scroll

Are you addicted to the social-media scroll? An expert weighs in on what you can do to slow the scroll.
5 days ago
High water in the Gardiner River along the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana, ...
Curt Gresseth

Be ready for flash flooding: Expert shares advice

An expert with the Utah Division of Emergency Management shares his expertise and crucial tips on how to be ready for flash flooding when you are in a vehicle or at home.
6 days ago
salt lake mayorMendenhall guns...
Curt Gresseth

After NY law is struck down, two Utah experts sound off on gun rights

Two advocates on either side of the gun-control vs. gun rights debate sound off on the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling to expand the right to carry a firearm in public.
11 days ago
Salt Lake County Search and Rescue safely rescued a hiker  out of the Lisa Falls trail on Friday.
P...
Curt Gresseth

Search and rescue expert has tips for hikers

Before you head out on your hike, take someone with you, tell somebody where you are going and when you plan to return. Those are just a few words for hikers from an expert on search and rescue.
12 days ago
A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Pho...
Curt Gresseth

Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home

Will you be ready if wildfires close in on your home? A survivor of a wildfire shares his experience and an expert shares tips and advice.
13 days ago
(Photo Credit: CNN/Shutterstock)...
Curt Gresseth

What is behind rising credit-card debt? Financial expert weighs in.

A national expert explains the sudden rise in credit-card debt in April and what you can do to lower your monthly payments.
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
To steal secrets, spies from China bide their time, former FBI agent says