A retired Boeing engineer who was allegedly part of a 25-year scheme to steal classified secrets about the U.S. space-shuttle program and send...

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WASHINGTON — A retired Boeing engineer who was allegedly part of a 25-year scheme to steal classified secrets about the U.S. space-shuttle program and send them to China was arrested Monday at his Southern California home.

The engineer, Dongfan “Greg” Chung, 72, worked for Rockwell International before it was taken over by Boeing in 1996 and worked as a Boeing contractor as recently as 2006. He was indicted on 15 counts of economic espionage, conspiracy, lying to investigators and obstruction of justice and faces more than 100 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

A native of China but a naturalized U.S. citizen, Chung held a top-secret security clearance. His case was one of a pair of espionage cases involving China made public by the government Monday. The other involves a Defense Department analyst who was indicted on a charge of passing secrets to two accomplices and eventually to the Chinese government.

The top Justice Department official for national security, Kenneth Wainstein, said that “foreign spying remains a serious threat in the post-Cold War world.” He described China as “particularly adept, and particularly determined and methodical in their espionage efforts.”

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“The threat is very simple,” Wainstein said. “It’s a threat to our national security and to our economic position in the world, a threat that is posed by the relentless efforts of foreign intelligence services to penetrate our security systems and steal our most sensitive military technology and information.”

The government said Monday’s unrelated cases are part of a growing trend. Last September, the U.S. director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, told a House committee that China’s foreign intelligence service is “among the most aggressive in collecting against sensitive and protected U.S. systems, facilities and development projects, and their efforts are approaching Cold War levels.”

Wainstein said at a news conference that the Justice Department has filed at least a half-dozen cases in the past six months involving Chinese efforts to acquire different types of technology, ranging from battlefield night-vision equipment to accelerometers used in the development of smart bombs and missiles.

In the Chung indictment, federal prosecutors alleged that he began taking orders from Beijing as early as 1979, sending classified information back to China about aerospace programs and the space shuttle, the C-17 military transport aircraft and the Delta IV rocket. At times, he sent the information through the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

Chung retired from Boeing in 2002, but worked as a contractor until 2006. Chung joined Rockwell in 1973 and worked at its Downey, Calif., facility.

According to the indictment, in 1979 he began receiving letters from officials in the Chinese aerospace community and responded to their detailed requests for information. One 1979 letter written from a professor Chen Lung Ku said to Chung: “Your spirit is an encouragement and driving force to us. We’d like to join our hands together with the overseas compatriots in the endeavor for the construction of our great socialist motherland.”

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