Utah Chinese Service Center is no risk to state residents, says ex-FBI agent

Jul 11, 2023, 6:00 PM

Chinatown Supermarket...

The Chinatown Supermarket is located in South Salt Lake. Photo credit: Martha Harris.

SALT LAKE CITY — Ten Republican U.S. senators, including Utah’s Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, have written a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding answers about seven Overseas Chinese Service Centers in the United States, including one in South Salt Lake.

But a retired FBI agent says unless you are a Chinese dissident now living in the U.S., you don’t need to worry.

The senators write of their “grave concern” about the OCSCs because they are operated by the “intelligence service of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in conjunction with the PRC’s national police force.”

The senators cite a report from the partisan news site, Daily Caller: Chinese Intel Arm Quietly Operates ‘Service Centers’ In 7 US Cities, and state that the seven OCSCs have been operating inside the U.S. for years and want the Department of Justice to investigate and brief the senators on what the investigation uncovers by July 31, 2023.

The 10 GOP senators have five questions for Mr. Garland:

  1.  Does DOJ assess that any of the seven aforementioned OCSCs is engaging in any illegal activity? If so, please describe this illegal activity.
  2. What action, investigative or otherwise, is DOJ taking in relation to the seven aforementioned OCSCs?
  3. Is DOJ aware of additional OCSCs or similar PRC facilities operating in the U.S. that have not been previously acknowledged by DOJ? If so, please identify and describe them.
  4. What actions will DOJ undertake to ensure that it has identified every OCSC or similar PRC facility in the U.S.?
  5. What actions will DOJ take to ensure that the PRC does not establish additional OCSCs or similar facilities in the U.S.?

Former FBI agent shares insights on Chinese intelligence

Debbie Dujanovic and guest host Taylor Morgan put that question to retired FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ken Porter, who worked in the Salt Lake City division.

“I don’t know if anything sinister is going on inside that building [the OCSC in South Salt Lake], but if I read you what Representative Chris Stewart told the Daily Caller, they’re here to pressure, to use coercion and use malicious influence. So, it makes me feel as though something sinister is going on inside there. But what’s your take?” Debbie asked.

“I would say this to begin with: I don’t think the average Utah citizen has anything to worry about regarding this center that is the focus of this letter,” Porter said.

But he added the Chinese government, and its intelligence service are one of the most proactive and aggressive in the world and exploit its contacts and citizens worldwide to benefit the Chinese Communist Party, its government and its army.

“For our local residents and business owners in the South Salt Lake area, you don’t feel as somebody who worked in the FBI for many, many, many years that they personally have anything to be concerned about regarding this letter to the level that our senators are concerned, that they’re gravely concerned about this center,” Debbie said.

Porter said Chinese Intelligence Services might be looking to locate Chinese dissidents who emigrated to the United States and now oppose the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government.

“But for you and me and anyone else who goes to that area to buy Chinese food or to look at the products that are in that strip mall, we don’t have anything to worry about,” Porter said.  “They’re not going to try to implant chips into us. They’re not going to try to poison us.”

Read also:

Utah senators urge Justice Department probe of Chinese Service Centers

Romney, Lee ask DOJ for information on ‘Overseas Chinese Service Centers’ in Salt Lake City, 6 other cities

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Utah Chinese Service Center is no risk to state residents, says ex-FBI agent