China’s space activities raising U.S. satellite security concerns

Reuters/Reuters - Soldiers stand in front of the Long March II-F rocket loaded with China's unmanned space module Tiangong-1 before its planned launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province in this September 29, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/Files

Reuters/Reuters – Soldiers stand in front of the Long March II-F rocket loaded with China’s unmanned space module Tiangong-1 before its planned launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province in this September 29, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is concerned about China’s expanding ability to disrupt the most sensitive U.S. military and intelligence satellites, as Beijing pursues its expanded ambitions in space, according to multiple sources in the U.S. government and outside space experts.

A classified U.S. intelligence assessment completed late last year analyzed China’s increasing activities in space and mapped out the growing vulnerability of U.S. satellites that provide secure military communications, warn about enemy missile launches and provide precise targeting coordinates, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

“It was a very credible and sobering assessment that is now provoking a lot of activities in different quarters,” said one former government official who is familiar with U.S. national security satellite programs.

The intelligence report raised red flags about Beijing’s ability to disrupt satellites in higher orbits, which could put the most sensitive U.S. spacecraft at risk, according to the sources. China has already conducted several anti-satellite tests at lower orbital levels in recent years.

Given the heightened concerns, Washington is keeping a watchful eye on Chinese activities that could be used to disrupt U.S. satellites. It is also urging Beijing to avoid a repeat of its January 2007 test that created an enormous amount of “space junk,” said one senior defense official.

Details of the latest Chinese moves that have raised U.S. concerns remain classified.

U.S. officials charge that China’s anti-satellite activities are part of a major military modernization that has seen Beijing test two new stealth fighters; step up cyber attacks on foreign computer networks; and launch more commercial and military satellites in 2012 than the United States.

China still lags behind the United States in most military fields.

“What we’re seeing is a heightened sense in the United States that China is a potential threat and that it has the technology to be a threat if it wishes to,” said Jonathan McDowell, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

“As China becomes a space superpower, and given that it does have a significant military component to its space program, it is inevitable that the U.S. will be concerned about threats to its most valued satellite systems, whether or not China actually intends to deploy such aggressive systems,” he said.

CREATING SPACE DEBRIS

Six years ago, on January 11, 2007, China destroyed one of its own defunct weather satellites in low-earth orbit, which created over 10,000 pieces of debris that pose a threat to other spacecraft. A less-destructive test followed on January 11, 2010.

Space experts and U.S. officials say they expect China to continue testing anti-satellite technologies, although they doubt it would repeat the 2007 test, given the massive international outcry it triggered.

Gregory Kulacki, a respected researcher with the Union of Concerned Scientists, reported earlier this month on the group’s website that there was “a strong possibility” of a new anti-satellite test by China within the next few weeks.

He said Chinese sources had told him in November that an announcement about an upcoming anti-satellite test had been circulated within the Chinese government, and a high-ranking U.S. defense official confirmed in December that Washington was “very concerned” about an imminent Chinese anti-satellite test.

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Engineer gets 32 years for military secrets sale

FILE - In this undated passport photo provided by the Gowadia family, Noshir Gowadia, accused of selling military secrets to China, is shown. Prosecut

AP – FILE - In this undated passport photo provided by the Gowadia family, Noshir Gowadia, accused of selling

HONOLULU – A former B-2 stealth bomber engineer was sentenced to 32 years in prison Monday for selling military secrets to China in the latest of several high-profile cases of Chinese espionage in the U.S.

Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said Noshir Gowadia, 66, would likely be in his late 80s by the time he is released if he gets credit for good behavior in prison.

“He broke his oath of loyalty to this country,” Mollway said. “He was found guilty of marketing valuable technology to foreign countries for personal gain.”

Gowadia was convicted in August on 14 counts, including communicating national defense information to aid a foreign nation and violating the arms export control act.

Prosecutors said Gowadia helped China design a stealth cruise missile to get money to pay the $15,000-a-month mortgage on his luxurious multimillion dollar home overlooking the ocean on Maui. They say he pocketed at least $110,000 by selling military secrets.

The defense argued Gowadia only provided unclassified information to China and was innocent.

His son, Ashton Gowadia, told reporters the jury wasn’t able to see documents that would absolve his father of the crimes because they were deemed classified. He said his father’s defense team would present these during an appeal.

“My father would never, ever do anything to intentionally to hurt this country,” Ashton Gowadia said. “We hope the convictions will be overturned and he’ll be able to go home.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson, the lead prosecutor, had asked Mollway to sentence Gowadia to life in prison. But he said 32 years was a stiff and appropriate sentence given Gowadia’s age.

“We’re confident the message is sent that when you compromise U.S. national security, when you disclose national defense secrets, when you profit by U.S. national defense information, that you will be punished, you will be pursued, you will be convicted,” Sorenson told reporters.

A federal jury in Honolulu found Gowadia helped China design a cruise missile exhaust nozzle that would give off less heat, allowing the missile to evade infrared radar detection and U.S. heat-seeking missiles.

The jury, after hearing 39 days of evidence over nearly four months, also found Gowadia guilty of attempting to sell classified stealth technology to the Swiss government and businesses in Israel and Germany.

The case follows other high-profile convictions of people accused of providing secrets to China.

Last March, Chinese-born engineer Dongfan “Greg” Chung was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after he was convicted of six counts of economic espionage and other federal charges.

A defense contractor engineer, Chi Mak, was sentenced in 2008 to 24 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to export U.S. defense technology to China.

Gowadia’s sentencing came just weeks after China conducted a flight test of its new J-20 stealth fighter during a visit to Beijing by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The Jan. 11 flight was held at an airfield in Chengdu, where prosecutors said Gowadia delivered an oral presentation on classified stealth technology in 2003.

Chengdu is a center for Chinese fighter aircraft and cruise missile research and development.

The judge sentenced Gowadia to 32 years for each of two counts of communicating national defense information to aid a foreign nation.

She also gave him 20 years for each of four counts of violating the arms export control act, and 10 years for each of five lesser counts including money laundering. He received five years for one count of conspiracy and three years for two counts of filing a false tax return.

But Mollway ordered the sentences to run together.

Gowadia has already spent more than five years at Honolulu’s federal detention center after he was ordered held without bail following his 2005 arrest.

The engineer helped design the propulsion system for the B-2 bomber when he worked at Northrop Corp., now known as Northrop Grumman Corp., between 1968 and 1986.

Born in India, Gowadia moved to the U.S. for postgraduate work in the 1960s and became a U.S. citizen about a decade later. He moved to Maui in 1999.

(This version CORRECTS to reflect Gowadia is not Chinese.)

Industry experts: Less ‘made in USA’ putting American security at risk

This piece from Jennifer Rizzo, CNN National Security Producer, can be found here.

Washington (CNN) — The decline in American manufacturing is risking the country’s security, experts will tell a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
Manufacturing industry experts will appear at a National Security Oversight Subcommittee on Capitol Hill to examine the effects the decades old downturn in U.S. manufacturing may have on the country’s national security.

The committee also will examine the problem of reliance on substandard and sometimes counterfeit foreign-made parts, a dependence stemming from the drop in U.S.-made products, a depleted manufacturing workforce, and outdated technology. That reliance could place the lives of American soldiers at risk, according to information released by the subcommittee.

“We have allowed our industrial base to deteriorate for the last two to three decades. As a result, just in national defense terms, our supply lines for strategic parts and materials have been stretched around the world,” said Jeff Faux, founding president and distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute.

“As you watch globalization move the manufacturing base offshore, in essence you are moving the defense base offshore,” said Robert Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO, “This is dangerous.”

Both Faux and Baugh will testify Wednesday.

The nation’s manufacturers are being seduced by China where they can get more for their money due to an undervaluation of their currency, illegal subsidies, and a lack of enforceable laws regarding, worker rights, and environmental and health standards, Baugh told CNN.

China’s manufacturing sector is on the brink of passing that of the United States, according to a report released in June by the economic research firm IHS Global Insight. The value of goods produced by China’s factories reached about $1.6 trillion last year, compared to $1.7 trillion by U.S. manufacturers.

The nation’s capacity utilization, which compares the output of U.S. factories to their maximum potential production, fell to a record low of 68.2 percent in June of 2009, as Chrysler and GM plants essentially shut down due to the bankruptcy process at the two companies, and as other automakers and suppliers scaled back due to overall weakness in demand.

U.S. output has been increasing steadily every month since that reading, rising to 74.7 percent in August — the latest month for which data is available — but is still down from the average reading, which is about 81 percent.

The subcommittee will be looking to hear recommendations from the panel of experts to open up discussions with officials responsible for making manufacturing sector policies.

“It is critical that we focus on modernizing and improving our industrial base to improve our economy, provide better employment opportunities to Americans, and strengthen national security,” said Rep. John Tierney, D-Massachusetts, chairman of the subcommittee. “We have to start to think strategically about the industrial challenges we face and take aggressive action to fully address them.”

“We have a national security policy that is not connected to our economic policy and an economic policy that is not connected to our national security policy,” Faux said.

CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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