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Opinion
Tim Culpan

Dropped MIT Case Shows the Perils of the ‘China Initiative’

Racial profiling and an emphasis on disclosure and tax filings has investigators looking in the wrong places, to the detriment of American values.

MIT is just another academic institution caught up in the program.

MIT is just another academic institution caught up in the program.

Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg

Gang Chen wasn’t accused of spying, or taking bribes, or even of inappropriate handling of sensitive information. Instead, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nanotechnologist was indicted a year ago for wire fraud and lying on his tax returns. But the Justice Department couldn’t even make those charges stick and dropped the case Thursday. 

Chen was the latest innocent victim of the U.S. government’s four-year-old program called the China Initiative, aimed at cracking down on the theft of technology and trade secrets by China and those who work for it.  The department’s logic for running the operation seems sound, as outlined in an update published in November, three years after the initiative was formalized.