(FiveNation.com)- The Department of Justice is shutting down a program to counter Chinese espionage after accusations that it amounted to racial profiling.
DOJ officials said last Wednesday that the 3-year-old China Initiative was being scrapped largely over perceptions that it unfairly painted Chinese Americans as disloyal.
In remarks delivered at George Mason University, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen said the China Initiative “helped give rise to a harmful perception” that the DOJ is applying a “lower standard” when investigating people of Chinese origin.
However, Olsen insisted that the decision is not an abandonment of the program, rather it is a reframing and recalibration.
The DOJ will continue to investigate Chinese espionage, Olsen told reporters on Wednesday, but it will “no longer use the framework” set up in the China Initiative to do it.
Olsen explained that the Justice Department officials concluded that singling out China with its own investigative program was ill-advised. Instead, the program will be reframed as part of a wide-ranging effort to counter threats posed by other countries as well, including Russia and Iran.
Olsen called this recalibration a “broader approach” and said abandoning the China Initiative shouldn’t be interpreted as the DOJ minimizing the nefarious efforts by Beijing to steal intellectual property or intimidate dissidents and critics abroad.
The Justice Department will continue to “aggressively combat” the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party using the “full range of tools at our disposal,” Olsen explained.
The China Initiative was set up in the fall of 2018 by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days before former President Donald Trump fired him. The program encouraged US attorneys to invest time and resources to build cases against Chinese espionage.
The program’s most high-profile cases involved criminal charges against professors and researchers working in the US who were accused of illegally hiding their involvement in the Chinese government’s “Thousand Talents” scientific development programs.
Some cases have led to convictions and guilty pleas, including last December’s guilty verdict of the former chair of Harvard’s Chemistry Department, Charles Lieber. Lieber was found guilty of making false statements to federal officials and filing false tax returns.
While Olsen described the China Initiative as unfortunate and sometimes counterproductive to the department’s efforts towards China, he rejected the notion that the program itself was racist or discriminatory, saying he found no evidence of bias or prejudice in any of the decisions made by the program.