Chinese May Be ‘Probing’ American Military Readiness Through Base Breaches, Lawmaker Says

Chinese May Be ‘Probing’ American Military Readiness Through Base Breaches, Lawmaker Says
(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock, Getty Images)

Fears of attacks on the homeland and foreign espionage stemming from the border crisis are growing in light of illegal immigrants breaching military bases as well as those with suspected terrorist ties.

On June 11, news broke that eight Tajikistan nationals with possible connections to the terrorist group ISIS had been arrested in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles in recent days.

Tajikistan nationals were responsible for the March 22 attack on the Crocus City Hall concert near Moscow that left more than 140 people dead and hundreds injured.

The individuals in the United States were being tracked by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. They were taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on immigration violation charges, according to wire agency reports.

The suspects crossed the U.S. southern border illegally in 2023 and were released after being vetted. The federal government’s screening process did not turn up any information that would have identified them as potential terrorists with ties to ISIS.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), who sits on the National Security, the Border and Foreign Affairs subcommittee, said that wiretap information revealed that one of the Tajikistan suspects was discussing “bombs.”

“That’s scary. The vetting is a joke,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times.

The incident highlights an increase in foreign nationals from adversarial nations encountered at the U.S. southern border from 180 different countries that include state sponsors of terrorism.

One of the fastest-growing groups of illegal immigrants arriving from hostile countries is China.

In the first seven months of this fiscal year, beginning October 2023, border agents have apprehended 48,500 Chinese illegal immigrants, which stands to smash the 2023 fiscal year’s record of 52,700.

At the same time, Chinese nationals and others from adversarial nations have increasingly been caught attempting to access America’s military bases.

The breaches sparked Mr. Fallon’s subcommittee to hold a classified hearing in May titled: “Intruder Alert: Assessing the CCP’s Ongoing Infiltration of U.S. Military Installations.”

Mr. Fallon described what he heard in the closed hearing as concerning.

Dozens of incidents have come to light of Chinese nationals snapping photos near military installations and critical infrastructure such as reservoirs, claiming to be tourists—even when the facilities are rural and isolated, he said.

Mr. Fallon noted that Navy Adm. Daryl Caudle said in a recent interview that incidents of foreign nationals from China and Russia trying to breach Navy bases occur “two or three times a week.”

“There are some folks in positions of authority and power that want to stick their heads in the sand and say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing here,’” he said.

It could be that the Chinese are probing how the United States responds and how close they can get to bases, he said.

That information would be critical, for example, should there be a conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan.

While the majority of Chinese nationals coming into the United States may be looking for a better life, even if 1 percent were communist “sleeper agents,” that would give Beijing about 480 operatives, he said.

Mr. Fallon said he doesn’t think the record-breaking number of Chinese nationals entering the United States illegally is an accident.

“That is a sky-high number when you consider under the Trump administration, it was under 1,000,” he said.

In fiscal year 2020, Border Patrol agents apprehended 554 Chinese illegal immigrants nationwide, according to government data.

“So I unfortunately believe that there’s going to be something awful that happens from an incident like this,” Mr. Fallon said.

More than 9 million illegal immigrant encounters have been documented nationwide by Border Patrol since the beginning of 2021.

Additionally, officials estimate hundreds of thousands of unknown “gotaways” who aren’t seeking asylum have illegally crossed the southwest border.

Republicans have long complained that President Joe Biden created the border crisis by rescinding policies under the Trump administration, such as  “Remain in Mexico,” where asylum-seekers waited in Mexico while their cases were pending.

But Democrats have downplayed mass illegal migration and have blamed global political and economic instability for the border crisis.

House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability member Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) said during the hearing last month that America’s immigration system was “broken” and implied racism was the reason behind opposition to migration.

Simon Hankinson is a senior research fellow at the Center for Border Security and Immigration for the Heritage Foundation who worked as Consul with the State Department during the Trump administration.

Chinese nationals crossing the border gives Beijing a larger pool of citizens to potentially strong-arm into spying, even if it involves unsophisticated attempts, he said.

“We let everybody come in. So we are accepting a level of risk that we shouldn’t,” Mr. Hankinson told The Epoch Times.

Foreigners trying to gain access to military bases grabbed the attention of the House Homeland Security Committee, which quickly launched an investigation into a May 3 breach of the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

According to a committee news release, two Jordanian nationals drove a truck to the main gate of Quantico, where guards attempted to redirect it after the two men failed to produce access credentials.

The driver ignored the guards’ orders and moved the truck forward until officers stopped the truck by deploying vehicle denial barriers. The release said that the two individuals were detained and turned over to ICE.

One of the individuals apprehended at Quantico reportedly crossed the U.S. southern border illegally and appeared on the terrorist watch list.

The Homeland Security Committee pointed out in a letter to defense and intelligence agencies that hundreds of illegal immigrants on the terrorist watch list had been apprehended attempting to enter the United States since 2021.

Customs and Border Protection data show Border Patrol agents have arrested 367 individuals on the Terrorist Screening Dataset, entering the United States between ports of entry since 2021.

The Homeland Security Committee noted similarities between the Quantico breach and a March 27 incident involving an illegal Chinese national who entered a Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, claiming to be lost. The facility is located in the remote California desert.

The Homeland Security Committee also sent a similar letter in 2023 to intelligence and military leaders questioning incidents involving base breaches reported by the media.

In one case, Chinese nationals were reportedly detected crossing into a U.S. missile range in New Mexico, and other Chinese were caught scuba diving close to a rocket launch site in Florida used for surveillance satellites and other sensitive military purposes.

In June 2020, three Chinese foreign nationals were sentenced to prison for illegally photographing military sites at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida.

The base houses a Tactical Combat Training System (TCTS) similar to the one depicted in the popular movie Top Gun, which tracks and records aerial maneuvers.

Likewise, a group of Chinese nationals claiming to be “tourists” attempted to physically bypass security guards at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, saying they had reservations at a hotel on the military base. After stopping the vehicle that blew past security, a search revealed a drone inside.

The base is strategically located for U.S. homeland defense, housing the U.S. Army’s 11th Airborne Division, which focuses on Arctic warfare.

The risk of terrorist attacks on American soil and espionage attempts rise as the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States increases, Mr. Hankinson said.

“It comes down to a number’s game,” he said. “They don’t have time to vet anybody.”

Screening questions for Chinese nationals have decreased from 40 to five, according to information presented during a recent hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability.

Mr. Hankinson said he has conducted vetting interviews himself, acknowledging they are of limited use if records and information from the individual’s native country aren’t shared with the United States.

Repatriation reluctance from other countries shouldn’t be used as an excuse to release people into the United States, he said.

“Any president that decided this was a priority, we’d be able to use diplomatic, economic, and other means to convince [those] countries,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times