New revelations about foreign spies infiltrating Silicon Valley are exposing just how oblivious some lawmakers, including ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are to the threat.
Unidentified intelligence officials recently spoke with Politico about a new “softer,” “nontraditional” style of spying taking over Silicon Valley that’s already entangled U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and likely others. Feinstein, the former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, unwittingly employed a Chinese driver who collected information about his boss and reported to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, they said.
The San Francisco Chronicle later confirmed the report through its own unnamed sources:
A local source who knew about the incident confirmed to us that the FBI showed up at Feinstein’s office in Washington, D.C., about five years ago to alert the then-chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that her driver was being investigated for possible Chinese spying.
“Diane was mortified,” said our source, who spoke to us only on condition he not be named.
Besides driving her around when she was in California, the staffer also served as gofer in her San Francisco office and as a liaison to the Asian American community, even attending Chinese Consulate functions for the senator.
Sources said the man, who was not identified, worked for Feinstein for years, and was befriended by a person connected with the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of State Security while on a visit to his home country.
“He didn’t even know what was happening – that he was being recruited,” a source told the Chronicle. “He just thought it was some friend.”
An FBI investigation concluded that the Feinstein staffer did not reveal anything important to his Chinese handler, and the senator later made it all go away.
“They interviewed him, Dianne forced him to retire, and that was the end of it,” the source told the Chronicle.
“None of her staff ever knew what was going on,” the source said. “They just kept it quiet.”
Josh Harp, the former head of FBI counter-espionage in the Bay Area, told CBS he wasn’t surprised Feinstein was targeted by the Chinese.
“Think about Diane Feinstein and what she has access to,” Harp said. “One, she had access to the Chinese community here in San Francisco; great amount of political influence. Two, correct me if I’m wrong, Dianne Feinstein still has very close ties to the intelligence committees there in Washington, D.C.”
CBS reports the staffer was employed by Sen. Feinstein for nearly two decades before he was uncovered as a spy.