US drops name of Trump’s ‘China Initiative’ after criticism – WSB-TV Channel 2

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WASHINGTON – (AP) – The Justice Department is dropping the name of a Trump-era initiative intended to crack down on economic espionage by Beijing, but criticized as unfairly targeting Chinese professors in American colleges because of their ethnicity .

The decision to drop the China Initiative, announced by the department’s top national security official on Wednesday, follows a month-long review undertaken after accusations that the program has chilled academic collaboration and contributed to a political party. took anti-asian. The department has also suffered high-profile setbacks in individual criminal prosecutions that culminated last year in the dismissal of several criminal cases against academic researchers.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said the department will “relentlessly defend our country against China” but will no longer consolidate its investigations and prosecutions under the China Initiative label, in part due to recognition of threats to states. States from Russia, Iran. , North Korea and others beyond China.

“I am convinced that we need a broader approach, which examines all these threats and uses all our authorities to combat them,” he told reporters ahead of a speech in which he planned to outline the changes. .

The program was created in 2018 under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to thwart what officials said were China’s aggressive efforts to steal U.S. intellectual property and spy on industry and society. American research.

Olsen told reporters he believed the initiative was driven by genuine national security concerns. He said he did not believe investigators had targeted professors on the basis of their ethnicity, but he also said he had to be sensitive to the concerns he had heard, especially from American groups. of Asian descent.

“Anything that creates the impression that the Justice Department applies different standards based on race or ethnicity hurts the department and our efforts, and hurts the public,” Olsen said.

The initiative resulted in convictions, in particular against hackers accused of having hacked into the networks of American companies. Nonetheless, he has become most associated with efforts to investigate professors at American universities for concealing ties to the Chinese government on federal grant applications.

Federal prosecutors should still pursue grant fraud cases against researchers when there is evidence of malicious intent, serious fraud and a connection to economic and national security, National Security Division prosecutors of the department in Washington playing a supervisory role. In some cases, prosecutors may opt for civil or administrative remedies instead of criminal prosecution.

Wednesday’s announcement follows several cases in which the department has either dismissed its own lawsuits or had them dismissed by judges.

In January, the department dropped its lawsuit against Gang Chen, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor indicted in the final days of the Trump administration. Prosecutors concluded they could no longer meet their burden of proof after receiving information from the Department of Energy suggesting it had not been required to disclose certain information on its forms.

A federal judge in September dismissed all charges against a University of Tennessee professor accused of hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving NASA research grants, and the university has since offered to reinstate it.

Olsen said the department continues to defend ongoing cases against professors and researchers.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a speech last month that the Chinese threat was “more brazen” than ever, with the FBI opening new cases to counter Chinese intelligence operations roughly every 12 hours.

“I’m not taking any tools off the table here,” Olsen said. In his speech at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, he noted that despite the diversity of threats, “it is clear that the Chinese government stands out.”

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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