A federal weather service employee charged with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from an Army Corps of Engineers database met a Chinese government official in Beijing, according to court documents that reveal the case to be part of an FBI probe of Chinese economic espionage.
Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, an employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office in Ohio, was arrested in October and charged in a federal grand jury indictment with illegally accessing the Army’s National Inventory of Dams (NID).
The NID is a sensitive database containing information on all U.S. dams. U.S. intelligence officials have said the database was compromised by Chinese hackers in 2013 as part of covert efforts by Beijing to gather sensitive information on critical U.S. infrastructure for possible use in a future conflict.
According to an FBI document in the case made public Dec. 30, Ms. Chen and Jiao Yong, an official of the Ministry of Water Resources in Beijing, exchanged a series of emails in May 2012 indicating that the two met in Beijing that year and that she was searching for, and would provide, dam-related information for him.
“It was very glad to meet you in Beijing after so many years and impressed with your achievement and contribution to the nation in water resources development and management,” Ms. Chen stated in a May 15 e-mail.