It happened five years ago, but additional information is just surfacing about how the Bay Area senator’s office was infiltrated by a Chinese spy.
The Bay Area is a hotbed for Russian and Chinese espionage. Late last year, the feds shut down the Russian consulate in San Francisco.
You may remember the thick black smoke that billowing from building before Russian diplomats turned it over to authorities, presumably produced by burning documents.
Now, all eyes are on Chinese intelligence in the Bay Area after the website Politico reported last week that a staffer for Senator Feinstein turned out to be a Chinese spy who reported back to the government officials about local politics.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle uncovered additional details in a column written by reporters Phil Matier and Andy Ross.
The column revealed that the Chinese spy was Feinstein’s driver who also served as a gofer in her Bay Area office and was a liaison to the Asian-American community.
He even attended Chinese consulate functions for the senator.
Feinstein — who was Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time — was reportedly mortified when the FBI told her she’d been infiltrated.
Investigators reportedly concluded the driver hadn’t leaked anything of substance and Feinstein forced him to retire.
Former FBI agent and KPIX 5 security analyst Jeff Harp said he was not surprised.
“Think about Diane Feinstein and what she had access to,” said Harp. “One, she had access to the Chinese community here in San Francisco; great amount of political influence. Two, correct me if I’m wrong, Dianne Feinstein still has very close ties to the intelligence committees there in Washington, D.C.”
Harp ran counter espionage for the FBI in the Bay Area. He said in addition to traditional political intel and diplomatic secrets, Bay Area spies are often focused on things like R&D, technology and trade secrets.
“They also have an interest in the economy here. How to get political influence here,” said Harp. “What’s being developed in Silicon Valley that has dual-use technology. All of that is tied to the Bay Area.”
And he says, like in many areas, when it comes to counter intelligence and espionage, the Bay Area is a trend setter.
“As the Bay Area goes, so does the nation when it comes to technology,” said Harp. “So why not when it comes to spying?”
Harp pointed out politicians with access to classified information are generally trained on what not to say and when not to say it. But he also noted when you have a driver behind the wheel day in and day out for 20 years, there are more opportunities to slip up.
Feinstein’s office would not comment on the story, saying they do not address personnel matters or investigations, but they added that none of their California offices staffers had ever had security clearance.
The FBI declined to comment on the story.