Democratic lawmakers urged the Department of Justice to investigate FBI misconduct under an initiative for prosecuting people stealing trade secrets, hacking or spying for China, in a letter published last week.
The note specifically asks DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to look into the failed prosecution of Anming Hu, a former engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, who was fired after FBI agents told his employer he was suspected of stealing government secrets for the Chinese military.
Hu was the first person prosecuted under the Trump administration’s China Initiative, the methods of which are being questioned after a jury deadlocked in his trial June 16 — following testimony from the investigating FBI agent that he spent 21 months surveilling Hu but doesn’t believe he was ever a spy, reported the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we are deeply troubled by the alleged misconduct of the [FBI] in the unsuccessful prosecution of University of Tennessee at Knoxville associate professor Anming Hu,” reads the letter. “The FBI allegedly falsely accused professor Hu of being a Chinese spy; falsely implicated professor Hu as an operative for the Chinese military; and used false information to put professor Hu on the federal no-fly list — among a number of other actions.”
Reps. Ted Lieu, Calif., Mondaire Jones, N.Y., and Pramila Jayapal, Wash., want Horowitz to determine if the China Initiative pressures personnel at DOJ, which includes the FBI, into racially and ethnically profiling people.
During his testimony, FBI Agent Kujtim Sadiku couldn’t recall who tipped him off Hu might be a spy and said he’d encouraged Hu to attend a symposium in China and report back on security concerns, reported the News Sentinel.
When Hu refused, FBI surveillance began, Hu’s bosses were informed and he was ultimately charged, not with espionage, but fraud for concealing his affiliation with Beijing University of Technology while receiving NASA funding — an accusation Hu denies.
Chinese universities are considered to be incorporated under Chinese law. As such, U.S. laws that prevent high-ranking federal employees from working for Chinese companies can also prevent them from working at Chinese universities.
The letter asks Horowitz to investigate whether false information was used against Hu and whether false accusations were made. It also calls for clarification over whether the Department of Justice was aware of concerns over false accusations, and whether racial or ethnic profiling occurred.
In the missive, lawmakers also seek to determine whether the decision to open an investigation was based on adequate facts and whether the China initiative pressures DOJ personnel into profiling people.
The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.