Reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have revealed that they have been investigating over 100 incidents involving Chinese nationals posing as tourists and attempting to breach U.S. military bases in recent years.
Suspicious behavior: These individuals, dubbed “gatecrashers,” have been engaging in suspicious activities that range from crossing into missile ranges in New Mexico to scuba diving near rocket launch sites in Florida, according to The Wall Street Journal. The incidents reportedly happened in rural areas far from tourist hotspots and commercial airports.
Some of those questioned have claimed to have inadvertently strayed onto military bases while following GPS directions to fast-food restaurants, while more troubling situations involve individuals attempting to force their way past guards using fake hotel reservations.
Espionage concerns: The different U.S. agencies have viewed the incidents as a potential espionage threat and have initiated a review to deter these infiltrations. Some security reviews conducted by the DoD were focused on gate conditions in the infiltrated areas.
U.S. Representative Jason Crow has also suggested that Congress may consider legislation to improve security measures at military sites. Currently, trespassing laws are primarily under state and local jurisdiction, not federal.
Chinese government involvement: Authorities suspect that the Chinese government may be compelling its nationals into service to gather intelligence and report on security practices at these sites. An FBI spokesperson emphasized the severity of the situation in an interview with Fox News, labeling China as the “greatest long-term counterintelligence threat” to the U.S.
Repeat incidents: There have also been repeat incidents involving Chinese nationals at key locations, including intelligence centers, missile sites, and even the White House. However, very few of these cases have resulted in espionage charges.
In 2019, two Chinese diplomats were expelled for suspicion of espionage, while a Chinese woman was sentenced to prison after trespassing at former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago estate with multiple passports and electronic devices.