NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
China is providing Harvard University with $360 million that a former military intelligence analyst says appears to be part of an effort to influence one of America’s most important educational institutions.
Anders Corr, a former government analyst who specializes in foreign influence operations, stated in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence that a Chinese military-linked company, JT Capital, gave $10 million to Harvard in 2014, the same year the family of Ronnie Chan, a Hong Kong real estate mogul with ties to China, announced it is giving $350 million to the university. Both donations were “relatively opaque” and raise questions about the purpose of the funds, he said.
Mr. Corr, who received an international relations doctorate from Harvard in 2008, said the Chinese donations appear to be an attempt to introduce biases among the university’s professors in a bid to influence U.S. policy or public opinion in China’s favor.
“Allowing such donations does not appear to be in U.S. national security interests, and it does not appear to be necessary for Harvard’s research and teaching (it already has an endowment of $36.7 billion),” he said. “Perhaps there should be legislation against Chinese-linked money in U.S. politics, including think tanks and universities.”
Harvard professors also give paid speeches in China, are paid for publishing work in China and enjoy all-expenses-paid travel to China, Mr. Corr stated in his letter.
“These are all potential avenues of influence upon professors, who do not usually broadcast these pecuniary benefits as they could diminish the perception of their impartiality,” he said.
The U.S. government gave Harvard $600 million in 2016, and over the years has provided billions of dollars for research and education, he noted.
Mr. Corr then asked the vice president, who met recently with Harvard President Drew Faust, to look into whether the China-linked donations violate U.S. foreign agents’ registration laws, and whether Harvard may be providing valuable U.S. technology to China in exchange. The $350 million donation also should be examined by the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS.
“Harvard is not unique in being a soft but influential voice on China that has a conflict of interest because of China-linked pecuniary interests,” Mr. Corr stated.
“The way in which China-linked pecuniary interests percolate through elite-level U.S. policy discussions on China on both sides of the aisle, and in supposedly bipartisan think tanks and universities, should be a concern to all U.S. citizens who depend on places like Harvard for unbiased political analysis.”
Mr. Corr said that given the substantial government support for Harvard, American taxpayers deserve greater transparency.
“Harvard is but one example, I think, of a much bigger problem of bias in U.S.-China policy analysis,” he said. “I hope the problem can be addressed by the enforcement of existing law, new law or at least someone with sufficient stature to improve transparency of China-linked donations and get some answers.”
Harvard spokesman Patrick McKiernan said the university is fortunate to receive support from people and organizations around the world to help in teaching and research.
“In accepting these gifts and grants, we are clear from the very beginning that the donor in no way may effect or influence the scholarship or academic independence of the university,” he said. “Such terms are part of our institutional protocol and only after reaching agreement with the donor is Harvard willing to accept such funding.”
Harvard also has policies aimed at dealing with conflicts of interest and safeguarding academic integrity, Mr. McKiernan added.
A spokesman for Mr. Pence said the vice president was traveling and had no comment.
MDA seeks stronger cybersecurity
Amid heightened threats of both missile and cyberattacks from North Korea, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency is taking steps to strengthen the cybersecurity of its high-tech system of sensors, command and control nodes and missile interceptors.
The MDA this week awarded a $91.5 million contract to Booz Allen Hamilton, an intelligence and defense contractor, for improving cybersecurity at missile defense sites. The funds will be used for cybersecurity management and computer network defense.
“This contract will ensure [MDA] information technology services, management and resources are administered, acquired, managed and operated in compliance with the priorities set by the MDA director and the goals and directives of existing statutes and Department of Defense regulations,” the Pentagon said in announcing the contract.
Locations for the work include missile defense facilities in Colorado Springs; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts; Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Efforts to beef up U.S. military cybersecurity are part of the Trump administration’s policy of strengthening defenses against cyberattacks as a first step in a major buildup of cyberpower. Once better cyberdefenses are in place, offensive cyberattacks or counterattacks are expected to be carried in the future, administration officials have said.
Schriever Air Force Base near Colorado Springs is home to the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center for U.S. missile defenses. Those defenses include a range of systems from short-range Patriot missile defenses to Navy Aegis defenses to ground-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems up to the long-range Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. Those interceptors in Alaska and California are the main defense against any North Korean ICBM attack.
North Korea is one of several major U.S. adversaries developing cyberwarfare capabilities targeting American weapons systems. The goal is for their military forces to integrate cyberattacks in the early phase of a conflict with the goal of knocking out sensors, electronics and guidance systems by introducing viruses and using other digital disruptions.
China, Russia and Iran also are developing cyberwarfare capabilities, as is the U.S. Cyber Command, the military command in charge of cyberwarfare.
Published reports have said the U.S. government was able to sabotage some North Korean missile launches by breaking into the supply chain of parts and planting malware in components.
Cyberwarfare requires significant intelligence capabilities to first penetrate foreign weapons or their command and control system and mapping the operating systems and then planting malware or creating backdoor openings that will permit remote access in a conflict.
North Korea is considered a second-tier cyberwarfare power. Pyongyang’s major cyberattack took place in 2014 against Sony Pictures Entertainment in a bid to dissuade the company from releasing an anti-North Korean comedy film.
Report on China’s religious abuses
The State Department this week outlined the death, torture and abuse of religious adherents in China as part of an annual report on religious freedom.
“Throughout the country, there continued to be reports of deaths, in detention and otherwise, of religious adherents and that the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices,” the report states.
The report states that among China’s 1.4 billion people, there are an estimated 657 million believers — far more than the official Chinese government estimate of 200 million. The faith community includes 250 million Buddhists, 70 million Christians, 25 million Muslims, 301 million observers of folk religions and 10 million observers of other faiths, including Taoism. Jews number around 2,500.
China’s constitution contains a provision ensuring “freedom of religious belief” for citizens. But in practice religious activities are suppressed through government controls on officially approved groups and harsh repression of unofficial groups.
The report notes that members of the ruling Communist Party of China and its People’s Liberation Army “are required to be atheists” and banned from practicing any religious faith. “Members who are found to belong to religious organizations are subject to expulsion, although these rules are not universally enforced,” the report said.
Chinese authorities continued the practice of bulldozing unofficial “house churches.” The government also continued its yearslong crackdown on the Falun Gong movement, estimated to number at least 70 million. The group reported that dozens of its members died in Chinese detention.
“A pastor of an unregistered church and his wife were reportedly buried alive while protesting the demolition of their church; the wife died while the pastor was able to escape,” the report said.
“There were also reports of the disappearance of a Catholic priest, and the death of a rights activist for Hui Muslim minorities and others that the government said was suicide.”
— Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.
• Bill Gertz can be reached at email@example.com.
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