A new report from the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says that a recent spy case in Taiwan involving a military officer identified only as “Chiang” (蔣) raises serious questions about Taiwanese counterintelligence.
The report plays down the probable damage and recommends that Taiwan “should remember the value of reassuring its allies in private,” and also brief friendly capitals.
While providing no real answers, the report says that the major questions raised by the Chiang case are: How much damage did Chiang do to Taiwanese security? To what extent are Chinese intelligence organizations targeting Taiwan’s command, control, computers, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems? To what extent are Taiwanese government institutions penetrated by Chinese intelligence?
A Taiwanese air force captain surnamed Chiang, who worked at a site in northern Taipei performing similar functions to that of the regional operations control centers, was believed to have passed intelligence to China.
The case rocked the Taiwanese military, because it came little more than a year after a high-profile spy for China was caught and is now serving a life sentence.
The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Feb. 29 that Chiang’s uncle, who operates a business in China, had helped pass on the information allegedly obtained by Chiang, which reportedly included classified material on Taiwan’s early-warning radar system as well as E-2T/E-2K Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.
The Jamestown Foundation analysis said: “The case raises several questions that countries friendly with Taipei should consider before condemning the Taiwanese government as so penetrated to be irrelevant. The same concerns should be mirrored in Taipei as a call for more transparency with allies.”
It added that the investigation might be ongoing, but Taiwanese investigators identifying the scope of the damage so quickly suggests that the Ministry of National Defense could “very well be right” in downplaying concerns about the damage.
“The real question now is how was Chiang removing data — electronically or by hard copy — because it affects how much technical data was delivered to China,” the report says.
The foundation also said that if most Chinese espionage cases involve picking up Taiwanese businesspeople in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and using them to access Taiwanese government officials, then the deliberateness or opportunism of China’s spies will depend on how well they can investigate the background and connections of those businesspeople.
“The normal elements of Taiwanese espionage cases in fact militate against really successful operations, because the Chinese intelligence services are several steps removed from the information they are trying to get,” it says.
“Additionally, very few Taiwanese traitors operate for very long inside Taiwan, suggesting military security and the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau are relatively effective,” it added
The report concludes that more evaluation is in order before “throwing up one’s hands entirely.”
In a recent interview with the Taipei Times, a US military expert with deep knowledge of Pentagon practices said that he had heard no recent complaints about Taiwan’s security.
He said there was no reason to believe that US arms sales to Taiwan would be affected by fears about technology leaks to China.