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05/20/98- Updated 06:20 PM ET

Expert: Chinese agents target Congress

WASHINGTON - Chinese agents operating in the United States are instructed to focus on the White House, Congress and Washington think tanks as well as people they think will become prominent, an author who works for a government intelligence agency said Wednesday.

The Chinese also run aggressive programs of surveillance and recruitment ofvisiting foreign businessmen, scholars, government officials and scientists, said Defense Intelligence Agency official Nicholas Eftimiades.

Eftimiades testified at a hearing on terrorism and intelligence operations of the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., asked Eftimiades whether the donation that Liu Chaoying, the daughter of the then-highest ranking officer in the Chinese People's Liberation Army, made to Democratic Party fund-raiser Johnny Chung in 1996 was part of a regular pattern of activities carried out by the Chinese.

"If we're looking at bribing foreign officials ... it's common practice in business activities. It's common practice in intelligence activities," responded Eftimiades.

Eftimiades, who said he was testifying as an author of a book on Chinese intelligence and not as a government official, explained how the Chinese penetrate U.S. and foreign political operations.

He said in a case in Norfolk, Va., documents became public in which a Chinese intelligence official was quoted as telling a recruit: "Your primary objectives are the White House, the Congress and Washington think tanks. If you're not working against those targets then don't bother with it."

He did not provide details of the case.

Eftimiades said the Chinese recruit two types of agents: short-term and long-term.

The thousands of Chinese citizens who travel to U.S. trade missions and scientific cooperation programs each year are debriefed on their return home to "determine whether useful information was acquired by simple observation," he said.

"China's most productive method of legally acquiring foreign technology is to send scientists overseas on scholarly exchange programs," said Eftimiades.

He said long-term agents are given several weeks of training and attend lectures on Congress, the U.S. government system and the media. They are told to "get to know people, people who you think are going to be prominent, people who are moving up, people who are aggressive."

These agents are "kept on ice" for five to 10 years before their contacts are exploited, he added.

Eftimiades said much of China's espionage efforts in industrialized nations is focused on mid-level technology because China's industrial infrastructure is 10 to 15 years behind the United States'. Illegal acquisition of such items draws less attention from U.S. law enforcement agencies than does the theft of state-of-the-art technology.

By The Associated Press

Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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