Space spy? NASA researcher, a Chinese national, arrested on plane bound for China

Aerospace contractor Bo Jiang, who is accused by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) of being a spy, made a first appearance in federal court on Monday. The Chinese national worked on contract at NASA's Langley's Research Center in Hampton, VA.

Federal agents grabbed him over the weekend just as he was boarding a flight from Dulles airport (in DC) to Beijing. He is charged with making false statements to U.S. authorities by failing to disclose all of the electronic devices he was carrying on his one-way flight, and has since been jailed.

From congressman Wolf's statement, which references the text of the federal warrant:

On Friday, March 15, federal agents learned that Mr. Jiang "was leaving the United States abruptly to return to China on a one-way ticket."

On Saturday, March 16, Mr. Jiang traveled by plane from Norfolk to Dulles to connect to a flight to China. While at Dulles he boarded a plane to Beijing. During a "border stop," federal agents conducted a search of Jiang's personal items.

And I'm quoting now directly from the arrest warrant: "During the consensual encounter, federal agents asked Jiang what electronic media he had with him. Jiang told the Homeland Security agent that he had a cellphone, a memory stick, and external hard drive and a new computer. However, during the search, other media items were located that Jiang did not reveal. Such items include an additional laptop, an old hard drive and a SIM card."

The warrant also notes that the FBI "believes this to be material to the federal investigation, in that it was important to learn what electronic media Jiang was taking out of the United States." It also mentions that agents are aware that Mr. Jiang previously traveled to China with a laptop belonging to NASA that agents believe to have contained sensitive information.

NASAWatch has links to all the early coverage.

CBS News has an updated account here. The Atlantic has an explainer post here, and the arrest warrant.

Sen. John Kerry has a planned trip to China coming up in the next few weeks. I'd imagine the Chinese government will not be happy about this case, which by any measure has so far provided all involved with more questions than answers.

(Thanks, Aileen Graef)