Friday, May 14, 2010

Confessed Spy Convicted of Exporting U.S. Crypto Gear to China

Via (Threat Level) -

A Chinese national was convicted this week of smuggling and other charges over his efforts to acquire sensitive military and NSA-encryption gear from eBay and other internet sources.

Chi Tong Kuok, of Macau, told Defense Department and Customs investigators that he had been “acting at the direction of officials for the People’s Republic of China,” according to a government affidavit in the case. “Kuok indicated he and PRC officials sought the items to figure out ways to listen to or monitor U.S. government and military communications.”

Kuok was arrested at the Atlanta International Airport last year en route from Paris to Panama, where he planned to meet an undercover federal agent he believed was going to provide him with military radios. He was transferred to California and indicted (.pdf) for money laundering, conspiracy, smuggling and one count of attempting to export a defense article without a license. On Tuesday, a jury convicted him on all counts.

The U.S. began investigating Kuok in December 2006, when, using the first of many aliases, the man e-mailed a contact in the defense industry in search of software for a VDC-300 airborne data controller, used for secure satellite communications from American military aircraft.

The contact referred Kuok to an undercover agent in San Diego, who began negotiating with Kuok over a shopping list of military technology that eventually grew to at least 43 different items, ranging from a GPS receiver with anti-spoofing defenses, to the NSA-developed AN/CYZ-10 crypto key management device.

Kuok repeatedly expressed fears that he might be dealing with an NSA, CIA or FBI agent, but continued to negotiate with the undercover officer, even cautioning him to avoid referencing the items by model number in e-mail, because “your country has this system to analyze” e-mail for keywords.

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