tv Declassified CNN September 4, 2016 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
as a former fbi agent and chairman of the house intelligence committee, i had oversight of all 16 of our nation's intelligence agencies. my name is mike rogers. i had access to classified information gathered by our operatives. people who risked everything for the united states and our families. you don't know their faces or their names. you don't know the real stories from the people who lived the fear and the pressure, until now. it's not a fear as in petrified. it's more like, make sure you do everything you need to do.
and don't have any mistakes or failures be because you didn't take that extra step. you weren't willing to put in the time. fear of failure is motivating for me. if you fail in a counterintelligence area, it can have national implications. failure at that level can mean lost lives. it's a very important value to me. keeping people safe. keeping americans safe. keeping this country safe. it's my job. it's my job. ♪ ♪
i supervise the southern intelligence squad in southern california. we were called to headquarters. they didn't tell us what it was about. before we could be exposed to the information we were given about this case, we had to be polygraphed. that's never happened to me before. so i knew the information itself was very sensitive, so they were taking extra steps. steps that i'd never had to take before. >> where did the information come from? >> i can't actually tell you how we got the information. i'm not trying to be coy, but we also have to protect our sources. we sat down and we were told that china was stealing u.s. naval secrets. kevin moberly is one of the first three agents we had on this case.
>> it was around 2003 that i joined the fbi, and immediately upon arriving to the squad it was evident our number one threat is china. >> the fbi is calling for your help in identifying chinese spies amid growing evidence that china is now this nation's greatest intelligence threat. >> china is a huge country. a growing country. it's asserting itself. most information worth having is here in the united states. china is our largest counterintelligence threat, easily. what was clear from the beginning was the technology that was at risk was naval technology. >> fbi headquarters, asked ssa headquarters to sent an agent to investigate the information. that happened to be me. the information we bring to that investigation is we understand the technology. we understand the navy platforms. i'm always motivated to protect the navy's technologies. i have that advantage. >> we learned there was a leak inside power paragon, a
subsidiary of l-3 communications. most of their work is in electronics. the technology being leaks to china was navy destroyer information and submarine information. in the begin, we didn't know exactly who was the source of the leak at power paragon. we took a look at a number of factors. we look at travel. we look at access. after we sifted through all the information, it came down to one person. and it was chi mak. >> chi mak was born in china. he moved to the united states with his wife.
he became an engineer in southern california in the 1980s. as an employee of power paragon. >> chi mak was a very good electrical engineer. he was the go-to guy in power paragon. >> chi mak had extraordinary access and was highly placed at work. he was trusted by the u.s. government experts. he worked with them side by side. >> chi mak worked on some of the most sensitive navy technologies. technologies that would take the navy into the next century. >> we know he gave the chinese government information regarding the virginia class submarine, which is our newest sub. and ddx information, which is our newest destroyer. most advanced destroyer in the world. but most important thing we were worried about leaving power paragon was quiet electric drive which is a technology to quieting the acoustic signatures of navy ships and especially nuclear submarines. >> a submarine is of no value if
the adversary knows where it's at. a quiet electric drive would have given the chinese a fingerprint for that sub's movement throughout the ocean. that allowed them to track it and eventually destroy it. >> if a foreign power knows the acoustic signature of a submarine, then they can kill that submarine. >> quiet electric drive was at risk. that may have already gone to china or may soon go to china. >> so that's why there's a much greater fear in failing to catch chi mak. >> in 2004, the chinese didn't have a strong navy capability. they were really a brown water navy. a navy stable to operate in shallow water.
chi mak chose the chinese efforts to be able to expand their capabilities into blue water. >> if these technologies are lost, then it means we don't have that edge. so, god forbid, if there's ever a conflict in the pacific that involves china with us on the other side, then i believe lost technology will cost u.s. lives. and that's one of the things that makes me angry. >> in the fbi we have to follow principles, policies and laws. and one of those is we have to have the evidence. our greatest fear initially was, will we catch chi mak doing what we thought he was already doing? >> the thing that hit me hardest about this case was that we've got a man who came here for better opportunity and, in fact, was a spy. sent by china to come here, pledge allegiance to the united states. he took an oath with a full intention of betraying it. he lived in this country for
decades and was able to put in danger members of our military. there was a lot of pressure on all of us. i wanted to stop that leak. i wanted to stop chi mak from providing any more information that would endanger u.s. navy servicemen. that's why i wanted to catch him. and to protect our people. a ler craftsman turns an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one. get great offers at the lexus golden opportunity sales event. lease the 2016 es 350 for $329 a month for 36 months and we'll make your first month's payment. see your lexus dealer. igoing to clean betteran electthan a manual. was he said sure...but don't get just any one. get one inspired by dentists, with a round brush head. go pro with oral-b. oral-b's rounded brush head cups your teeth to break up plaque and rotates to sweep it away. and oral-b delivers a clinically proven superior clean versus sonicare diamondclean. my mouth feels super clean! oral-b. know you're getting a superior clean. i'm never going back to a manual brush.
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all the indicators narrowed it down to chi mak was the one who had access to the information being leaked to china. >> we have to have the evidence. our greatest fear initially was, will we catch chi mak doing what we thought he was already doing? >> the allegation itself is not enough to be able to conduct a search warrant into a house or monitor through their telephone. so on the chi mak investigation, we began by doing dumpster diving. >> that's one method that doesn't give notice to the person we're investigating that we're involved. we look at it when they don't know we're looking at it. you're looking through trash that's been sitting there at least a week. usually in hot weather. there's maggots, smells, everything you can imagine. one of the ways that gunnar endeared himself to the others on the squad was he wasn't above doing the trash either. he volunteered to help.
>> my kids would ask, how is your day? i'd tell them i've been dumpster diving all day. didn't sound like a real respectable position, but that's what we do. >> we realized we needed 24/7 surveillance coverage of chi mak and his wife. we needed to understand where chi mak was, who his associates were, how he got from one place to another, where he went and what he did when he went to those locations. in order to do that, you have to rely on just good old-fashioned physical surveillance. >> chi mak's life revolve around his work. he didn't have a social life, that we could see. he didn't even keep in much contact with his brother tai mak who also lived in los angeles close to chi mak. he and his wife would spend long hours in there. rebecca wouldn't leave the white house without him. rebecca would look out her
window every day and spend lots of time in the house. we felt she was protecting something. she didn't leave the hour, but she was guarding it. >> chi mak and his wife lived extremely simple lives. they cut costs everywhere they could. small home. never improved upon. about 700 square feet total, counting the garage. >> chi mak made between $80,000 and $100,000. that's a fairly good living during that time frame. we'd have discussions during the investigation about the fact that chi mak was a maoist. because of that, it dictated a frugal lifestyle. >> he grew up during a time when chinese academics were looked down on. that the labor movement, the laborers were going to forge the future. >> that lifestyle was something that was engrained into both chi and rebecca when they were raised in china.
>> as we do surveillance of chi, he would regularly pull into a gas station. and we thought we was doing countersurveillance because he'd wash the windows every time he got gas. we felt that gave him a 360-degree view, a perspective of what was around him. in the end, in hindsight, he just didn't want to pay for a car wash. chi mak would travel every saturday into a hardware store. so i made the opinion he was meet with a foreign intelligence officer there. that turned out not to be the case. what it turned out, is we put a body in there and that chi mak
was cheap. the store gave him free coffee and that's why he went every week. >> [ inaudible ]. >> sure. sure. time and time we'd doubt. >> the investigation wasn't going well. i wasn't sure we were on the right track. from the beginning of the case, we saw no communication between chi mak and anyone in china. but you have to be patient for your opportunity. if we push any more, we might reveal ourselves to chi mak. it's a waiting game. we're waiting for the next time he steals information and tries to send it to china. >> i believe jim was under a lot of pressure. you have to remember, we were using a lot of manpower. >> there were times when i thought, are we going to reach the end before someone pulls the plug? that the case wouldn't advance quickly enough, and we'd lose our resources and support? that worried me. at that point i knew we needed to get a look inside his house. we had to develop the rest of
the picture. after we started the trash and surveillance, we started writing up our affidavit for the fisa court. >> the foreign intelligence surveillance act allows national security organizations to conduct surveillance to detect foreign governments spying on the united states or committing terrorism. it's a court, much like criminal court, so in order to get the ability to monitor somebody's telephone, you have to have a warrant. and in it, it explains that i believe chi mak is committing espionage for the following reasons. >> after five months on the case, we got authorization to tap his telephone lines. and to go inside of his house and do a covert search. we were listening to every phone call that came in out of that house. >> which led us to learn about a trip he was taking to alaska.
>> when we found out chi mak and rebecca were going to alaska, i believe the first thought in everybody's mind was, he must be going operational. potentially meeting a handler to give information. that's very typical trade craft for a spy. >> so we took the safest course and sent agents along with them who would watch them and make sure they didn't meet or pass any information on to people. and from what we could tell, they didn't pass any information. but the alaskan cruise, that was our opportunity, i knew, to go inside his house, covertly. we had to see what he had stored, who his contacts were, if he had any letters or correspondence with people in china. that was an important moment in the case. to get inside. this was our opportunity to go in and see what he had. many piey life. so when my asthma symptoms kept coming back on my long-term control medicine. i talked to my doctor and found a missing piece in my asthma treatment with breo.
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set up the command post in. that was the brains of the operation. that's where it all was going to basically be coordinated from. i remember pulling into the park and kind of taking in the visual scene. you had these majestic trees. i was the first one there. and i would be lying if i said i wasn't nervous. >> we had to be absolutely certain that we're able to get into the house. search the house and get out of the house without being caught. in order to do that, we need to make sure we fit into the natural patterns of that neighborhood. the fbi went so far as to obtain a van that looked just like chi mak's van that we used to approach the home. if a neighbor were looking out, they'd assume chi mak was coming home and they'd go back to sleep. >> you need a huge number of
people watching the neighborhood making sure nobody walks up on you. you need to watch out for dogs and teenagers, as strange as it is. teenagers can come and go at any time of the night and dogs can be barking. neighbors get up to smoke on their porch or use the bathroom. it's a complicated ballet of controlling when you go in and when you leave. you can't just come and go. >> i remember standing in the command post and taking stock of everything going on around me and then realizing just how complex this operation really was. all of the moving parts. any one of those things fail, and you're done. when you go inside the house, you can't leave a trace that you've been there. for instance, if the coffee table is very dusty, you can't scoot something because then you've left another trail in the dust. if they really know their house, they'll come back and say, how
did that thing get moved? >> literally there was dust on things and the fbi would spray dust and replace the dust we moved so it couldn't be detected. you leave the room exactly how you left it. pretty impressive. >> when we went into chi mak's house, we were surprised at the amount of information he had taken and stored in his home. this house was dense with documents. he had them stacked by the front door, on the kitchen table, in his bedroom, in his computer room, a second bedroom, all over the house. when i saw that much information in there, i felt validated. a lot of research, a lot of manpower had gone into this first entry into the house. and this was validation that, again, we were on to the right person. that we had a guy who was collecting information. n this is the information that we thought was at risk that may have already gone to china or may soon go to china.
>> the search of the house confirmed he's stealing information, but we didn't have the proof that he was committing espionage. and that would include giving it to a foreign government. we can prove he stole it. prove he traveled but not prove that he traveled with the classified documents. that was the smoking gun we needed to go to the next level. >> after the covert entry, the next big break happened. when we recovered something from the trash. >> we were looking through chi mak's trash for almost a year before we found any real high value evidence. >> amongst the trash, a lot of tiny pieces of paper with chinese characters on them. >> on that given day, special agent jesse murray from the fbi had, in the office, laid out a bunch of pieces of paper. she was putting them together like a puzzle. and she called me over. she said, gunnar, can you help me with this? we were making some joke about
how i could read chinese. i caught the three letters at the bottom that said ddx. of course, that's about the navy's next destroyer. we translated that note and the note went from being a note to being a tasking list which clearly demonstrated chi mak was receiving guidance or direction to steal what he was stealing. >> a tasking list is something that the handler, the foreign government, gives the individual and says, these are the technologies we want. and in his case, he received two lists. the other list was typed in chinese, specifically telling him, collect this information on a disc. put it together and then give it to us. we learned later the tasking and instruction sheets originated
from chi mak's handler in china, mr. pupei leung. they were delivered in an orange yellow health book. opened up the book and inside remember these two lists. i thought at the time we were extremely fortunate that chi mak tore up a note that if we were stop think and thinking about it he would have burned or shredded or disposed in a way that we couldn't have found. very little was ever in his trash. bills, that sort of thing. to find that tasking list one time, that was one of the big mistakes he made. when i found those two lists, and i knew we had a tasking list and set of instructions, that validated the whole investigation up to that point. i knew nobody would question our investigation, that we were on the right track. and i knew going forward, that would mean we'd continue to get resources to take it to its logical conclusion. ♪
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that's why we want to make sure you won't have to wait on hold. and you won't have to guess when we'll turn up. because after all we should fit into your life. not the other way around. we're looking through chi mak's trash for almost a year before we found any real high value evidence. >> finding the trash with the tasking note and instruction seat was the most significant evidence we had because it showed he was still spying for china. >> finding the tasking notes in his trash allowed us to use more
obtrusive investigate of tools. >> during this investigation, chi mak and his wife took three vacations which gave us opportunities to go into the home. the first opportunity, we went into the home and saw all the paperwork he had stacked up for work. the second opportunity we went in, we planted microphones in the house. the third time we went in is when we put cameras in the house as well. >> installing closed circuit television cameras was a challenge. you can imagine how well you know your own room to be able to go in to that room and install something as invasive as the equipment needed to record closed circuit tv. it's difficult. >> you watch their daily life, what was going on at home. and how they dealt with each other as husband and wife was really unusual. we never saw an inkling of affection between them.
there was no hand holding, pat on the back, hug, kiss. none of that. that kind of relationship kind of made us wonder, is this actually a marriage in the ordinary sense or more of a contract? more of a partnership. more of something the chinese government had put together to serve its own purpose. in our investigation, we also started following his brother tai mak and his sister fuk li and his son billy mak. it gave us information about who tai mak was and what his role was. >> we believe they were sent to the united states in 2001. tai mak's job was to be the currier of information that chi mak stole. >> tai mak was an integral part of this operation. >> now that we had the well, we continue every technique that we've been using, waiting for the next time he steals
information and tries to send it to china. but you have to be patient for your opportunity. you don't know if it's going to be next week and you have to be ready for that, or it could be next year. >> we received a phone call from the surveillance personnel that they had some video of chi mak and rebecca sitting at the dining room table copying discs. >> that was the day we knew, okay, big break. something is going on here. in the surveillance tape we saw of chi mak and rebecca making a disc. chi mak was making the disc. rebecca was constantly over his shoulders nagging him about what he was doing wrong or how he could do it better.
>> then it was quickly discovered that, in fact, they were discussing copying discs and giving them to his brother, how they were going to take these discs back to china. >> based on information we had, we believe the quiet electric drive, the very sensitive navy submarine data is on that disc. >> tai mak then took that disc home and gave it to billy, his son, who was in charge of the ibm thinkpad laptop which had the encryption program on it. >> tai mak wasn't so good at doing the encryption on his own. we don't believe billy was originally part of the plan but tai mak asked his son to help encrypt the information his uncle chi mak had given him. we found out fuk li made some calls and said we're going to china. the very next day, tai mak called the handler pupei leung in china.
>> pui leung was happy. when you land, call my cell phone number. a number we saw repeatedly throughout the case. and they hung up. and a few days later, tai calls his brother and says, chi mak, i'm going to china. >> we briefed the head of navy nuclear reactors, and he says the quiet electric drive can't
loaf the united states. you must stop it from leaving the united states. >> qed was too sensitive. it was the deciding factor that we had to make an arrest for that. >> quite honestly, there was a lot of relief because we finally hit the stage in the investigation where, ah-ha, we got him. we finally got him. and now we get to do something about it. >> when we hear this whole series of events go on in the past week, we're very excited. >> chi mak has been stealing information that puts u.s. lives at risk, and we were going to stop him. we were going to finish with a complete case, a trial, and a conviction. it's a performance machine. with this degree of intelligence... it's a supercomputer. with this grade of protection... it's a fortress. and with this standard of luxury... it's an oasis. introducing the completely redesigned e-class. it's everything you need it to be...and more. mercedes-benz. the best or nothing. for every 10 nights i stay, i get one free.s rewards program is simple.
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he compiled three discs of information. on one disc with the intention to give it to the chinese government. we believe the quiet electric drive, the very sensitive navy submarine data, is on that disc. >> a few days later, tai calls his brother chi mak and says, brother, i'm going to china. >> that's what was the final straw to say, we had to arrest now. >> to complete the charge of espionage, we have to show the complete cycle. that you've stolen it and transferred to a foreign power.
by watching tai take the information and go through security, we're able to complete that charge that he's now committing espionage because he's flying through china in order to give it away. >> the operation to arrest tai mak and his wife at los angeles international airport was extremely complicated. >> it's not just taking down one person in one place. we had to do multiple arrests simultaneously. we have to make sure we knew where chi and rebecca were. phao, billy, tai and fuk all at the same time. we were doing heavy surveillance as they approached the airport. billy drove them, dropped them off and left. as they were at the airline counter, we had an outer ring of surveillance personnel who noticed an asian male standing on the sidewalk at l.a.x., outside, filming them through the window. >> he's at an airport and videotaping people in line in
front of him. why would he do that? >> we told that unit to stay on that unidentified man and the inside unit would stay on fuk and tai. they followed him through security. and then made the arrest. >> and that went very, very smoothly. very quietly. not like tv, no guns fired, but very quiet arrest. >> what was interesting is that man watched the arrest, sat down and started using his phone. and he looked bewildered, completely confused. and during that time, we were able to go through his telephone and learn more about him. >> his name was mr. luo.
he had five telephones on him, and he was texting people in china about his progress. this was frosting on the cake for us. we didn't realize they would have surveillance personnel watching their own people for signs of compromise. and it also confirmed the importance of this delivery to china that they'd have somebody watching it. >> at the airport, we searched the bag of tai and fuk li, his wife. in the luggage, they had a small book titled "how to speak american english." in it they had two out of three cds. and they are the type of discs, you'd learn to speak english. put it in your computer, spit out words, talk back to it. instead of having the third disc, they had the disc they copied and encrypted. pretty ingenious. any inspector would open the book up, look at it quickly, see the two discs and move ahead. >> when tai mak and fuk li
entered through security at the right moment, all the elements were in place to take them down, coordinated at the same time with the exact moment of the arrest of chi mak and rebecca at their house. it was about 11:30 at night. we showed them the search warrant. what they were under arrest for and transported them to the fbi office to be processed. >> after following someone around for two years and getting to know them without ever speaking to them it makes the first conversation quite an awkward one. jim gaylord and gunnar would finally hear from chi mak, his own mouth, what his story was. >> i don't care you believe me. >> give me an explanation for why these are in the trash and where they came from?
>> not a long one. just who -- who belongs to this list? where were they from? >> when jim asked him a question about the well, he was shocked by it and started uttering whatever he could think of to deflect from us. a great moment is when he reads that tasking list and grabs for a cup of tea that had been empty for 40 minutes and sucks it to his mouth just to give him time to think about what his answer was going to be. >> i pulled this out of your trash. and i put it together. this came out of your trash. >> -- >> don't ask me because i saw it. i did it. >> i never trash anything. >> you tore up this note so people would just see a lot of gibberish and wouldn't mind, pay
any attention. but since i know what i'm looking for, i know what you're doing, we pieced this together and we see instructions to you about how to do things. from those people that you're helping back in china. you put it on a cd. it goes back to them. >> hard to explain how you would have such a list in your trash and then to be typed in chinese. >> that's a typed chinese script. you do not have that on your computer. >> no, i don't have it. >> so where did it come from? >> very hard for chi to explain. we thought we had him. we really thought he was going to turn and talk to us at that point. but he didn't. he dug his feet in, and it was frustrating. it was frustrating because we knew -- we knew that he knew we had him. we all knew that he was lying, and he just refused to open up.
>> when i interviewed chi mak for the second time, with omar lopez, another ncis agent, i'll never forget walking into the jail and chi waved at me. very unusual to see chi mak wave. he would never want to talk to me again. but that day he waved, and he wanted to talk, so we brought him in, and he didn't really have a great plan for how we wanted to talk to him. we just started talking to him about the navy and his technology, and we built r rapport. >> it was realized that he wanted to be the professor, and so we, therefore, had to put ourselves into a position of being the student in order to get him to open up. for him ego was the key to opening him up. >> when we asked him about the
work he did, he wanted talk more it. we talked about the significance it would have to china. we asked him. did you do it to help the chinese? he said, absolutely. my response was but wouldn't that also hurt the united states navy? and he eventually came around. i can't help china without hurting the united states navy. >> how was that conversation reported? >> well, a lot of different reasons. the first reason was we were doing it in -- when we went over there, we never expected him to talk, and it was not our policy to record all of our interviews. it just wasn't our method of operation. when he finally confessed to me that he had been passing sensitive information to china, part of me was delight. this is a breakthrough. this is what we've been working at for a long period of time, and now he was telling the
truth. part of me was angry. was pissed. he was putting sailors into a really vulnerable position. only to satisfy his own ego. only to get the gratification talking to people about the work he had done. he had no regard for safety and security. >> once he made the arrest, then it was a waiting period, and it wasn't until a year and a half later that we went to trial, but we were going to dot every i and cross every t to make sure there were no gaps, nothing that could be taken advantage of to derail the case. then i feel guilt. feel guilt for letting these people get away with what they did for decades. reaches farther than ever. ded t now you can stream video and music free in more places without using any of your data.
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>> worked for a defense contractor is now on trial. he is accused of stealing critical u.s. navy technology from the chinese government. >> the trial went very smoothly from our end. we had excellent government witnesses and special matter experts, witnesses to what chi mak was doing, and a lot of agents took the stand, including myself, to testify about what we had seen and what we had recovered. in the end chi mak was convicted of every single charge that was brought about against him.
>> he was found guilty of giving defense technology to china. >> when he was found guilty, all of the faith that we had to put into this investigation from the very beginning was finally justified, finally paid off. >> the conviction of chi mak on all charges by a jury of his peers was extremely satisfying to me. it was a huge win for the whole intelligence branch. >> once the decision had come out that chi was guilty of the charges, the rest of the family came in on a plea deal. the mak family was all charged together. all pled guilty to aiding a foreign government, international arms, conspiracy, false official statements. >> chi mak is currently serving a 24-year plus sentence in
prison. >> the rest of the family had served out their sentence and have been deported to china. chi got a just sentence, and we learned a great deal about the chinese matters of operation. the mak case demonstrated how the chinese used family fwlsh a family you can trust one another. you know who they are. it allows them to have natural relationships. the results of our investigation is we caught a family who was committing espionage. we caught a family of spies. >> thended is ended up being a milestone case. it showed us that we could convict people on these sorts of charges. across the country we've been able to successfully charge and prosecute people for espionage and espionage type crimes. chi mak stole sensitive navy information and gave it to the chinese government for over a decade. >> the technology that chi mak
gave china significantly reduces the gap, technological gap, between the united states navy and the chinese navy. >> a miesh in support for the naval commander. off the top level talks at the u.s. over the south china sea. beijing sounding off a warning to washington after a u.s. warship sailed close to manmade islands claimed this week. with only 55 vessels in washington's western pacific fleet, u.s. ships in the region are out numbered more than 5-1 by china, but now both sides agreed to follow guidelines to avoid clashes, but beneath the diplomacy, tensions are simmering. >> i'm certain that there are many other like chi mak in the united states working on behalf of china. absolutely. >> there are people in this country that are gathering defense information to take back home and help their countries develop their own edge, to compete in the united states.
>> yes. there are a lot of people out there working on behalf of china. back in 1981 i had the american dream. the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs, and a beautiful 6-year-old son. one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye, never saw him again. in two weeks i became the parent of a murdered child, and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers. over those years i learned how to do one thing really well. that's how to catch these bastards and bring them back to justice. i've become a manhunter. i'm out there looking for