Two Republican members of Congress have launched an investigation into Chinese espionage operations targeting confidential medical research performed by the National Institutes of Health, according to communications obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.
Reps. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) and Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) are petitioning NIH leaders to disclose how researchers with ties to adversarial regimes such as China continue to participate in confidential research projects and receive American grant money, according to a letter sent Thursday to NIH director Francis Collins. The lawmakers express concerns about a lack of oversight at the agency that they say might have allowed foreign spies to gain access to critical research.
Chinese infiltration of the American medical research community has been a concern for federal authorities, including the FBI, for years. China has been responsible for multiple large-scale hacks on the health care industry, including patient data and medical research into cancer and other diseases.
As the coronavirus has swept the globe and amid revelations of China’s efforts to deceive the world about the virus, lawmakers are beginning to conduct audits on a range of federal agencies to ferret out Communist Party-backed spy operations. These investigations have become especially critical in light of revelations that NIH may have funded the Wuhan-based lab near where the coronavirus emerged.
Banks and Gallagher are asking NIH to provide Congress with information about individuals they may have identified as having undisclosed ties to foreign countries. This includes some 250 NIH researchers identified in recent years as having “suspicious foreign ties” that could trace back to a state-sponsored spy ring.
China has long attempted to steal U.S. government-sponsored research, including from the medical community and military-industrial complex. In some instances, Chinese spies have successfully smuggled proprietary information back to the Chinese government.
It’s sad, but after so many decades hardly surprising, that the willingness to look into Communists infiltration is pretty much exclusive to one party.