US /

Report: 'Lost' Chinese Tourists Could Be Gathering Intel

They've turned up at US bases, sensitive sites 'as many as 100 times in recent years'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
Report: 'Lost' Chinese Tourists Could Be Gathering Intel
A Chinese flag is shown.   (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Lost tourists, or something more sinister? Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that Chinese nationals have attempted to make their way onto military bases and other sensitive US sites "as many as 100 times in recent years," ostensibly to collect some kind of intelligence or test the security measures in place at various locations. The paper describes some of the attempts as "benign"—people who turn up at a military base and say, for instance, they're trying to find a fast-food joint nearby. But then there are reportedly incidents where Chinese nationals barrel through checkpoints, take photos using drones, or appear "to be scuba divers swimming in murky waters near a US government rocket-launch site in Florida." Sources describe it as a growing trend.

The Journal reports on details that seemingly undermine the "we're just tourists" line: In some cases, Chinese nationals are stopped by security guards in rural areas that don't see much tourism and aren't close to a commercial airport. They also "use what appears to be scripted language." A former deputy staff director at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence says that while an American caught trespassing in China could be in for a world of trouble, the same doesn't apply here, especially as most trespassing laws exist at the state or local, not federal, level: "If a few of them get caught, it will be very difficult for the US government to prove anything beyond trespassing, and those who don't get caught are likely to collect something useful," she says. (Read the full report here.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.