March 06, 2013
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA,, has demanded that the U.S. space agency revoke a reported invitation to Chinese officials for an Earth-observation coordination conference at Langley Research Center next week.
In a March 4 letter to Administrator Charles Bolden, Wolf said he has learned that Chinese participants will be included in a meeting of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) strategic implementation team at Langley March 12-14.
Under a law drafted by Wolf, a frequent critic of China’s human rights and intelligence practices, NASA or the White House science office must certify to Congress that there will be no national security threat from an upcoming Chinese visit at least 14 days before the event.
Since the upcoming meeting falls within that limit, and there has apparently been no such certification, Wolf says “hosting of any Chinese visitors would be in clear violation of the law.
“Accordingly, I expect any participation by official Chinese visitors will be promptly canceled,” he continued.
NASA had no comment on Wolf’s demand, except to say that “NASA is reviewing the letter,” according to a spokesman.
Wolf cited recent press reports on Chinese espionage threats and a White House “strategy on mitigating the theft of U.S. trade secrets” in making his demand, and requested Bolden review other visits at agency headquarters and field centers “to ensure that official Chinese visitors have not inappropriately gained access to any NASA facilities.”
Wolf has been joined by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in probing why the Justice Department dropped a four-year investigation into whistleblower charges that Chinese engineers and other foreign nationals without proper licenses were allowed access to technology at Ames Research Center protected by the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
In the latest instance, Wolf says it “has come to my attention” that “officials of the government” of China are planning to attend the CEOS meeting at Langley. Established in 1984, CEOS is an international body coordinating civil Earth observation from space, and arranging data exchanges “to optimize societal benefit.”