Feds: Oops, 'Chinese Spy' Is Innocent US Professor

His arrest was based on scientific misunderstanding
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2015 9:10 AM CDT
Xi's faculty profile photo from Temple University.   (Temple University)

(Newser) – The next time the Justice Department decides to arrest a "spy" for sending classified scientific information to China, it might try consulting a scientist first. In what the New York Times describes as an "embarrassing acknowledgement" for prosecutors and the FBI, espionage charges have been dropped against Xi Xiaoxing, a 57-year-old American citizen who has been in the US since 1989 and was the chairman of Temple University's physics department when he was arrested in May. He was accused of illegally sending blueprints of a pocket heater to China, but the charges were dismissed after experts—including the device's co-inventor—explained that the blueprints were of something else and Xi was engaged in normal academic cooperation.

The prosecution involved "fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings about the science and technology," Xi's lawyer tells the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the blunder came amid a major push to counter Chinese economic espionage. Xi, who was arrested by armed agents who stormed his home, says the incident has badly damaged his academic career and his research into superconductors. "I don’t expect them to understand everything I do," he tells the Times. "But the fact that they don't consult with experts and then charge me? Put my family through all this? Damage my reputation? They shouldn't do this. This is not a joke. This is not a game." (The sons of Ethel Rosenberg say her execution for espionage 62 years ago was also a mistake.)

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