Wednesday, November 1, 2006

With the FBI, the Scales of Justice are Tilted

The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles sentenced former FBI agent Denise Woo to probation and a $1,000 fine to a misdemeanor for improperly sharing confidential information.

It could have been much worse. She was originally charged with 5 felony counts alleging serious national security breaches and faced up to a 15-year prison term.

Woo’s pro bono attorneys at O’Melveny & Myers promptly declared overwhelming victory at the end of the court hearing, but Woo did not really win. To win, she would have had to receive a medal for courage and conscience beyond the call of duty.

She was accused of having informed Jeff Wang that he was under investigation for sale of secrets to China. Wang was identified by a paid informant the FBI considered rock solid.

It turned out that the informant actually knew Wang personally and bore a grudge against him. She reported to her superiors that their target was innocent and their informant unreliable. In response, the FBI dismissed her from further involvement of the investigation.

Woo persisted and raised questions about other suspected spies for China that were fingered by the same FBI “asset.” This merely infuriated the FBI.

Ironically, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Justice credited the same informant for calling attention to the sexual misconduct between Supervisory Special Agent J.J. Smith and another paid informant Katrina Leung.

Smith was Leung’s handler and also the one who prevailed on Woo to go undercover and spy on Wang.

As if all the misconduct and misfired investigations proved too much to bear for the FBI, they had to take it out on someone. That someone was Denise Woo.

Woo left a successful fast track career at IBM, where she made partner in the consulting practice in less than 12 years, so that she could make a difference in the public sector by combating child pornography.

Her first mistake was to join the FBI. She found a white, male dominated world with little respect for ethnic minorities and women.

She was initially assigned to the section on white collar crimes where she won several commendations for her analytical skills, hard work and persistence.

By the end of 1998, she was finally assigned to the child pornography desk where she thrived under 60-hour work weeks. It was then that she was asked to take on additional undercover work by the counter-intelligence office in Los Angeles.

She felt the ethical sting of having to spy on a close family friend. She did not realize that it was also wrong for the FBI to have placed her in a situation of potential conflict of interest.

When she reported back that Jeff Wang could not be the spy FBI was seeking, her supervisors were not pleased. They only wanted corroborating evidence.

Woo’s “crime” was in not realizing that FBI was an organization incapable of owning up to a mistake. They certainly were not going to take the findings of a young Asian woman agent seriously.

Woo only wanted to correct the way the FBI conducted counter-intelligence. Instead of seeking remedies, they set out to teach her a lesson for disrupting a macho white hierarchy.

Without the pro bono counsel of Mark Holscher and his colleagues at O’Melveny & Myers, Woo’s prospect would have been bleak. As was with Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist also rescued by Holscher from indefinite incarceration, it was the might of the federal government against one lonely individual.

Woo can find some solace in the four former colleagues and now retired veteran FBI agents that attended her court appearance. They shook their heads and could not believe that this travesty could have gone on so long.

However, can the American taxpayers find comfort in an organization responsible for domestic counter intelligence that depends on paid professional informants? That FBI lacks the cultural sensitivity needed to work with ethnic minorities and lacks the integrity to own up to mistakes they make?

Can Americans feel protected when the very organization that is supposed to protect them is the one most likely to use their power and authority to railroad innocent victims, suppress findings and run the wheels of justice over individuals that beg to differ?

America is founded on the principle of truth and justice for all. Somebody needs to tell this to the FBI.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Contest Serves as Memorial of World War II Atrocities in China

New America Media, News Report, George Koo, Posted: Oct 29, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Winners of the 2006 Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest were announced in Washington DC on Sunday at the Biennial Conference of the Global Alliance for the Preserving the History of World War II in Asia.

First prize went to Hann-Shuin Yew of California for his essay, “The Rape of Nanking; A Quest for Peace.” Graeme A. Stacey of British Columbia earned second prize with Adeline Oka of Massachusetts placing third.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Heidi M. Bauer, Lani Cupchoy, Kristal Leonard, Niina Pollar, James L. Young, Natalie Beisner, Ed Dubois, Alissa Magorian, Alesia Sidliarevich, Loraine Yow, Juliane O. Bitek, Michael Dyer, Jillian McLaughlin, Jialan Wang, Andrew L. Chen, Teague B. Harvey, Matthew R. Mock, Becky Wood, Timothy Cooper, Sabrina Howell, Natasha Naik, and Lily Yan.

The organizers of the conference strive to remind the world that the atrocities in Asia must not be forgotten anymore than the Jewish Holocaust. To that end, the Alliance has, under the auspices of the Iris Chang Memorial Fund, sponsored the essay contest.

iris_changThe topic of this year’s essay contest is “How has Iris Chang’s book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II affected my life and thinking?” The Fund and the contest were established in memory of Iris Chang (1968-2004 who wrote The Rape of Nanking, about the slaughter, gang rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers in the former capital of China.

Close to 300 entries from around the world responded to the essay contest. Entries came from almost every state in the union and from 11 foreign countries and represented all age groups.

Many contestants are high school students. Nearly all of them are inspired by Chang. Because of her book, they now want to major in international relations or journalism and launch a career in finding truth and seeking justice anywhere in the world.

Some of the contestants described how the book resonated with traumatic experiences of their own.

Many of the young people’s essays drew the analogy between the forgotten Holocaust and atrocities of today. They pointed out that the world has also ignored Rwanda, Darfur and Iraq. Iraq is where American soldiers have been accused of rape and slaughter of civilians. The young commentators railed at humankind’s inability to learn from the past and impotence to alter the present.

Almost all the writers voiced that they hadn’t learned about the Asian role in World War II from their school’s history curriculum. Some of the writers felt they were betrayed by the American educational system. All essays were compelling personal stories showing the influence of Iris Chang’s book on their lives.

A young mother from Uganda, now studying in Canada, couldn’t fathom why atrocities and strife in Northern Uganda that she witnessed had been ignored by the world. From the book, she learned hers was not the only one the world ignored.

A Belarus journalism student drew a parallel with Iris Chang’s heroic effort to bring truth and justice to the victims of the Nanking Massacre and the author from her homeland who called the senseless war in Afghanistan to the attention of the people of Belarus.

A young American Jewish woman who grew up with an intimate knowledge of the Jewish Holocaust was appalled that nothing was ever taught about the Nanking Massacre. As if to make a personal atonement, she is now studying Chinese and living in China. She has made it her mission to preserve the memory of the Forgotten Holocaust along with the Jewish one.

An American student who loves Japan went there as an exchange student. She contrasted the portrayal of the Japanese as victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with, as her home Dad demonstrated, the absolute refusal to examine their country’s role as the World War II aggressor. She was shaken by Japan’s lack of remorse and total ignorance among her fellow students about the war crimes of their grandfathers.

Reading the Rape of Nanking helped a young Hawaiian American of mixed Chinese ancestry put into context her grandparents’ stories of the Japanese slaughter of 12,000 civilians on an island in southern China a few months after the Nanking massacre of 300,000. She decided to emulate Chang and write a book, Slaughter at San Zao.

The book also reminded a young man of Filipino ancestry of the horror of Japanese brutalities that accompanied the occupation of Philippines. Tales of unspeakable atrocities were witnessed by his grandparents. “Forgetting will only conceal the truth,” he avowed.

An African-American military officer emphasized that we must not become desensitized in the face of heinous acts against humanity. Only if we were willing to take a stand and speak out against brutality, could we hope to reverse the injustices

The first prize winner will be awarded a cash of $1,000, the second prize, $500 and the third prize, $250. A cash of $50 will be awarded to each of the honorable mentions.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Leveraging one’s ethnicity in a flat world

Keynote delivered at the Haas School “Diversity in Business Conference” on October 13, 2006

We all know that the United States of America was founded by immigrants. Indeed this has been one of the unique but frequently overlooked strengths of this country. By and large, this country continues to keep its doors open, not just to the poor and downtrodden but also to the best and brightest other countries have to offer. As a consequence, the U.S. continues to be renewed by new blood, new ideas and new energy. In turn, people continue to migrate to the U.S. because this is the land of opportunity, where by dint of ability, dedication and willingness to work hard, anyone (at least virtually anyone) can realize the American dream.

Certainly no where else is this more true than here in the Bay Area or Silicon Valley and I will be using the two terms interchangeably. While the U.S. might be unique among nations, I submit Silicon Valley is unique within the U.S. It is this uniqueness that has made Silicon Valley the technology Mecca of the world. Let me offer just one of many indicators as to why Silicon Valley is unique. The Bay Area represents roughly 2% of the total population of the U.S. but takes in about 35% of all the venture capital invested in this country every year; in other words, anywhere from 15 to 20 times their fair share of risk capital.

Why is Silicon Valley unique? I believe there are two major reasons. It is by far the most diverse region in the world. Talented and motivated people from all over the world come to the Bay Area, perhaps first to attend school such as you folks and then stay because this is one of the best places to live. Secondly, this area has great tolerance for failure. Entrepreneurs know if they fail here in Silicon Valley, they can still hope to secure funding for the next idea they cook up. The venture investors here give credit for the experiences gained in starting a venture. Not so in most other places. In most places, failure means seppuku or at least having to skedaddle out of town. To know that it’s OK to fail is to give entrepreneurs courage to take on the risks of starting a venture. After all, the probability of failure of a new venture is about 4 out of 5.

One of the secrets of Silicon Valley’s success is the presence of immigrants. In fact, your professor Annalee Saxenian, Dean of School of Information, was the first to study and report on the phenomenon of the role of ICs; in her lexicon IC stands for Indians and Chinese. Her study showed that approximately 30% of the new ventures were started up by Chinese and Indo-Americans. This study dates back to 1998, the last year she studied, and I believe the proportion of start-ups by ICs has only gone up since her study. Among some of the more famous start-ups, Sun Microsystems and Exodus Communications had Indo-Americans as co-founders, Yahoo had a Chinese American co-founder and of course you all know the most successful start-up, Google, was founded by two Russian immigrants.

Mind you it wasn’t always like this. This morning you had the director of culture and diversity from HP as your leadoff keynote speaker. It is most appropriate that she should be the lead off speaker. After all, HP is the granddaddy of Silicon Valley and the HP Way continues to exert its influence on the business culture of Silicon Valley—recent pretexting adventure notwithstanding. However, even HP was not free from glass ceilings. The best known case involved a then young PhD from MIT who was a Chinese American and was the leader of a group in R&D. He was surprised one day, when a junior white engineer, who was assigned to him for training, suddenly got promoted over him and became his boss. That Chinese American was David Lam, who promptly resigned and went on to found Lam Research, one of the more successful semiconductor equipment companies in the valley.

Parenthetically, since I am myself a Chinese American, I am going to draw from my experiences with an ethnic Chinese point of view. But I think, and I hope, you will find that my experience and observations are reasonably valid for all immigrants that have landed in the Bay Area.

Even before David Lam was David S. Lee. Lee started his first company in 1969 called Diablo Systems, a company that made daisywheel printers. He sold the company to Xerox in 1972 for $28 million. One of the first things Xerox did was to replace David as the executive in charge, so David resigned and started Qume the following year. Qume continued to make refinements in the daisywheel printer and the company was sold to ITT in 1978 for $165 million. This sale returned 93 times original investment for the investors. David made his first million in 1972 when he was 34 and his sale of Qume was the first Silicon Valley company to be sold for over $100 million.

When David was raising venture funding for Qume, despite his track record with Diablo Systems, the investors insisted on the right to put in a CEO over David as a condition for their investment. When ITT bought the company, they made David the number one executive and then later made him a corporate vice president in charge of three divisions. At that time, ITT was in the top ten of Fortune 500 companies and David was undoubtedly the highest ranking Chinese American executive in Corporate America from Silicon Valley. He repaid ITT for their confidence in his management ability by staying with ITT until his division was sold to Alcatel, the French telecomm equipment company.

By the time David left ITT in 1984 he was already a legend in Silicon Valley. While he continued to acquire and run high tech businesses, he also began to think about –as he put it—working for future generations. He became politically active as a fundraiser. Being a Republican he supported most Republican candidates at all levels but he also supported Asian American candidates regardless of political affiliation. He encouraged all Asian Americans whatever their political persuasion to be active and get involved. To David, participating in the political process and having a place at the table was more important than the political affiliation. When Bill Bradley ran for the Democratic nomination for president, he was a visiting scholar at Stanford. David was among the first to host a dinner party for the senator so that some of the notable Chinese Americans in Silicon Valley could meet him.

David has served on presidential commissions for three successive presidents from George Bush Sr. to Bill Clinton to George W. He had been on the board of regent for the University of California system since 1995 and just recently stepped down having served his term. He was very aware of his responsibility as the only Chinese American regent to serve in a system where Asian American students represent more than 40% of the enrollment. He has been president of Chinese American associations, visible supporter of many Asian American causes and a tireless speaker at functions to encourage others. Even though public speaking is not his strongest suit, he accepts invitations that come his way because he believes in making a difference by example.

Pauline Lo Alker was born in China and grew up in Hong Kong. She came from a “traditional” Chinese family where she was told that her mission in life was to support her brothers. Her parents enter her to school a year early so that she could keep an eye on her older brother. Her dream was to attend Northwestern University, but her parents kept the acceptance letter and scholarship notification from her. In the end she and her brother left Hong Kong to attend Arizona State where Pauline took on a double major of music and mathematics. During her senior year she was introduced to the computer, which she took on with complete enthusiasm. After graduation in 1964, to her chagrin the only job open to her was to be a bookkeeper at Sears & Roebuck.

Pauline’s first break came a year after graduation when she met someone in the computer department of General Electric who offered her a job as a manuscript typist. Not exactly a plum job but at least it was in the right department. She rented an IBM Selectric, learned to type on it and took the job. A month a half later, a programming job opened and she applied and was selected over four others. Her high tech career was finally launched. By 1972, Pauline had moved to Silicon Valley to become the 37th employee of Amdahl Corporation, then a start-up computer company. She then moved on to mid-level management positions at Four Phase Systems and Intel.

Pauline came to prominence in 1980 when she joined Convergent Technologies, a computer workstation company, as their vice president of marketing. In four years she oversaw sales of half a billion dollars worth of workstations. Convergent was an early high flyer and she was the frequent spokesperson for the company. In 1984, Pauline started Counterpoint Computers, a builder of high performance computers, which was sold to Acer of Taiwan in 1987. She stayed on to run the U.S. business for Acer for a while. In 1990, she was recruited to run and turn around a small company, Network Peripherals, which she did turn around and got it ready for public offering in 1994. The company won the recognition as the most successful IPO from Silicon Valley in 1994. Since 1998 Pauline has continued to lead Internet related start-ups in Silicon Valley.

In the recent fifteen years or so, Pauline received many honors and awards. She wasn’t just the most visible Asian American women in Silicon Valley but was one of few pioneering women executives who have established their credentials in heretofore a mostly male high-tech industry. She was a popular and widely admired role model and she relished her position and took her responsibility seriously. She became the first woman to become the president of AAMA, then standing for Asian American Manufacturers Association. AAMA was and continues to be one of the best-known professional organizations for Asian Americans in Silicon Valley. When it was first formed, it was to serve as a networking and mutual aid organization for Asian Americans. Today, the organization is known in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as the bridge to Silicon Valley. When Pauline stepped in to lead this organization, the energy level of the entire organization went up, there were more programs put together by more volunteers and attended by more people. Pauline called herself the “self-appointed champion of the young.” She organized and led workshops to teach young engineers about leadership and communication skills and other attributes necessary in order to become successful managers and executives. It was invariably the most popular and best-attended event.

David Lee and David Lam and Pauline were among the first wave of Chinese Americans that not only helped built Silicon Valley but made the statement that Chinese Americans were not just good technicians but can also be successful entrepreneurs and business executives. Contemporaneously, there were others that climbed the ladders of Corporate America such as Bob Lee who retired as the executive vice president of PacBell, Albert Yu the Sr. VP now retired from Intel who led the development of the microprocessors and Lee Ting who was a corporate VP of global logistics for HP who has gone on to become a senior executive of WR Hambrecht, an investment bank and currently serving on the board of Lenovo. Other than being successful in their profession, what they have in common is that they all believe in giving back and they have done this in various ways.

Of course, so long as we are talking about the early leaders, we must not overlook our own Chancellor Chang-lin Tien. How many of you have heard of the late Chancellor Tien? Here he was a short Asian guy, wore glasses and spoke with an accent, but he was a giant of a chancellor. He inspired students and faculty alike and he raised the profile of UC Berkeley throughout Asia. I won’t go into his life here, because all of you should already know all about him and his legacy on the Berkeley campus.

Why am I talking about the lives of all these people? Because these people went against the stereotype and broke through the glass ceiling. They were the pioneers and pave the way for others to follow and made it easier for all of you to succeed. Instead of being an advantage (which is the subject of today’s talk that I will get to) their ethnicity, accent, and physical appearance were held against them. They had to overcome the handicap imposed by the society’s stereotype and beat the odds. Because of their success, other entrepreneurs that followed them were able to obtain funding more easily and were more accepted as the CEOs and senior management of Silicon Valley companies. Today, at least in the Bay Area, seeing an Asian or an Asian woman as the CEO doesn’t raise eyebrows anymore. Virtually all the major venture capital funds now have one or more partners that are of Asian ancestry. Ten, fifteen years ago, an Asian partner was rare but today, so many business plans are coming from Asian entrepreneurs and having an Asian partner is an advantage when the venture capital firms are looking for deals.

While I am suggesting that the playing field is now more or less level here in the Bay Area for Asian Americans and other ethnic minorities, this is still far from being so elsewhere in the U.S. But what I want to suggest today is that with the globalization trend, or as Tom Friedman claimed in his best selling book, “the world is flat,” that it is possible for the multi-cultural, multi-lingual person to enjoy an edge over the mono-cultural and mono-lingual person. The person who can move easily around the world and who can establish rapport across language and cultural barriers is the person who can succeed in this flat world. Increasingly the person who will succeed is someone who can just as easily live and work in China or India as they can in the U.S. or Europe. This is what I mean by leveraging your ethnicity.

I have been going to China regularly since 1978 helping and advising American corporations on doing business in China. I would like to conclude my talk by sharing with you what I think are the essential skills in order to be successful in a cross cultural career.

One is to take careful notes. Basically it is never a good idea to rely solely on one’s memory on important matters, such as the date of your Mom’s birthday or your wedding anniversary, but it is even more important when you are jet lagged. When the brain is jet-lagged, it is amazing as to how easy it is to get order of events, people seen, nature of discussion and decisions made all mixed up in just a few weeks after it all took place. Make it a practice to write everything down in real time and review them before you get on the plane to return home.

Another important characteristic is careful and active listening, or listening with empathy. This means listening in such a way that the speaker feels assured that he/she is being understood, not feeling the pressure from a listener who is anxious to interrupt and get a word in. An active listener is learning from the conversation and meeting, absorbing and digesting and understanding. Most of us leave a lot on the table because we have never paid enough attention to becoming a good listener. Active listening is a part of effective communication. Effective listening is important in our daily lives but even more critical and challenging in a cross cultural situation, because it requires the person to be constantly switching the contextual background. A Chinese may be saying certain things that have certain significance while an American might be saying similar things but mean quite something different. A bicultural person has to have the ability to pick up the culturally derived nuances, put the remarks in context and be able to explain one side to the other.

There are many occasions when I have been called upon to assist with the interpreting between Chinese officials and American business executives. My command of the Chinese language is never good enough for me to act as a professional interpreter. But ironically, because I cannot be a word for word interpreter, I concentrate on making sure that the meaning and intent is accurately conveyed. For this, I get expressions of appreciation from both sides of the conversation.

To be a truly bicultural person is someone who can explain what one side is saying in the context such that the other person from the other culture can understand it. While I take a great deal of satisfaction in being able to help bridge the cultural gap between the Chinese attitude and the American one, sometimes the line seems blurred between explaining a position and taking a position. Sometimes one has to be able to distinguish between explaining China’s policy versus defending China’s policy. As an American citizen, I have an interest in helping Americans understand China’s policy, but I am not sure that I should not be in the business of defending China’s policy.

For example, China has been criticized for their one child policy and their sometimes rather draconian ways of enforcing such a policy. I would point to the alternative, namely that without the policy there would be 300 million more Chinese today than there already are. Certainly, I would not defend or even try to explain the extreme lengths some officials in the countryside have gone to enforce the one-child policy.

On the matter of protection of intellectual property, I would explain to my American client that this is a big headache and needs serious attention. I might indicate that lack of respect for software is a part of Asian culture endemic throughout Asia, that the solution will take a long time and require not only enforcement and prosecution but a great deal of education to promote understanding and respect. Again I would not defend or even condone piracy. In fact every chance I get when I am in China I would point out that protection of IP is in China’s self interest and is crucial to China developing a serious software industry. I am pleased to report that China is beginning to seriously address the IPR problem, as witnessed by the joint training program China is entering with Berkeley.

By the way, as a side bar, I want to tell you about my recent vacation in Europe that took me to Amsterdam. When my wife and I visited the Rijksmuseum, I noticed an impressive collection of blue and white Delft porcelain. Looking at the plates and bowls more closely, I noticed that the drawings showed some strange looking human beings and activity. They wore funny looking head gear and surrounded by strange looking buildings. I found out on closer reading of the explanatory notes that the porcelain wares were developed to replace the export porcelain from China. The Chinese ware already had some strange looking paintings that depict Chinese landscape and activity in accordance with what the Chinese thought the Europeans imagined as genuine exotic Cathay. The Delft ware was simply copying the bogus Chinese landscape as a way of offering a cheaper version of the highly prized good. So why am I telling this story? Because the next time someone accuse China of rampant knockoffs, I can at least point out that the Europeans invented the knockoff idea hundreds of years earlier.

In explaining China, it’s important to avoid using the party line from China for the simple reason that words from China tend to be doctrinaire and sound more like slogans than are persuasive. For example, I think it is less persuasive to label the Falun Gong a dangerous evil cult, than it is to simply describe some of the teachings of their founder. Describing such concepts as levitation through meditation, believing in the power of a spinning wheel to ward off bodily harm, and viewing sickness as punishment for sins that cannot be cured by medication do a lot more to show the cult aspects of this movement than just name calling.

As I said, in a flat world, the world belongs to those who can be comfortable anywhere. Most of you are already ahead of the game being from somewhere else than the U.S. If you feel that your background is not sufficiently broad, then I hope you will actively seek to broaden it, whether it’s learning another language, seek employment in another country or travel more out of the country.

I hope you will see yourselves as launching into careers where diplomacy, at least business diplomacy, is an essential part of your occupation. In a globalize world, executives with global reach are needed. You folks are born at the right time to take advantage of this opportunity and I wish you success in the exciting times ahead of you. As you become successful in your career I hope you will remember success isn’t just measured in net worth and making the Forbes 400 list. I hope you will also believe that success in life is to make a difference, be a role model for others to follow and give back to the society that gave you the original opportunity.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Profiling Hurts National Interests

When it comes to national security, the counter espionage folks at FBI find easy pickings when they search for spies. They just look among the 3 million plus Chinese Americans living in our midst.

Since the organization was founded by J. Edgar Hoover, FBI has been operating on the assumption that China conducts espionage differently from other nations by relying on sympathetic Chinese Americans to supply tiny tidbits of information. FBI calls this a “grains of sand” approach to spying.

As the theory goes, when all these tiny bits of information are assembled, China will have stolen the design of the multi headed missile or whatever the next generation weapon of mass destruction the U.S. happens to be working on. Small wonder then that many in FBI see Chinese Americans as bona fide prospective spies.

This is a legacy from Hoover, a closet homosexual who sublimated his frustrations by peeping into the bedrooms of folks he did not approve, including such luminaries as JFK and Martin Luther King. Hoover also never liked those slant eyed, buck toothed “Orientals” running around this great land of ours.

Hoover testified before Congress during the cold war years that Red China sent agents to the U.S. under the guise of lawful immigrants and illegal aliens. They in turn recruited others from among the Chinese American community. The same allegations appeared again in the 1999 Cox Committee Congressional Report on the Red China scare.

Paul Moore, who apparently can speak some Putonghua, was, before he retired, FBI’s resident expert on Chinese espionage. He continues to be widely quoted on how China uses the grains of sand method for gathering intelligence. He used to carpool with Robert Hanssen, greatest double agent ever to work for Soviet Union, and never smell a fish but Moore could spot a Chinese spy in any crowd.

Today, this mindset persists in America especially at FBI. They apparently believe fast advancing, highly scientific details of military weapon systems can be pieced together through patiently gathered information over a long period. Any clear thinking individual can see that this wholesale racial profiling rests on a shaky if not ludicrous premise.

Take the latest case of Chi Mak still pending formal trial in Los Angeles Federal District Court. Mak works for a defense contractor and is a specialist in power electronics. The FBI has charged him with attempting to send secret information to China.

Disclosure of all the facts is pending the formal trial, but some of the revelations are illuminating. According to the FBI, Mak was caught trying to send his own published papers to China. Published papers are in public domain, but apparently can become state secrets in a grains-of-sand conspiracy. FBI seems unable to distinguish the desire to help ones motherland from espionage.

The defense attorney asked for bail on Mak’s behalf pointing out that he has been a naturalized citizen residing in the same address for the last 27 years. The prosecution’s simple rebuttal was that this fact just confirmed Mak’s effective deep cover as a mole. In other words, Mak was guilty until proven otherwise.

One piece of information leaked to the press was that Mak was caught with plans of a nuclear power plant on his person. On actual inspection, the “plan” in question turned out to be a sketch of roads to the power plant to facilitate Mak and his colleagues finding the place. Mak was part of a team sent by his firm to provide technical service to the power plant.

Leaking misleading or even false information to the press as a way of convicting a Chinese American suspect in lieu of hard evidence has been a favorite ploy of the American law enforcement authorities. Dr. Wen Ho Lee, formerly a scientist at Los Alamos, was tarred in the press with groundless innuendos which led to his incarceration for nine months.

When Lee finally came to trial, the FBI agent in charge had to admit that he lied about the evidence in Lee’s case. Lee’s original charge of treason for sending multiple head missile technology to China was reduced to a misdemeanor for downloading computer data against laboratory procedure. The presiding judge actually apologized to Lee as he dismissed the case(1).

Perhaps learning from the Lee fiasco, FBI handled Denise Woo differently. Woo was one of their own outstanding graduates who joined FBI in order to serve her country—in her case the United States. Her supervisors violated Bureau procedure when they asked her to spy on a Chinese American they suspected of espionage for China. Woo was not trained for undercover work and she knew the suspect personally and thus was put in potential conflict of interest.

When Woo reported back to her office that JW, the suspect in question, was clean, they removed her from the case. Eventually, they dropped the case because they could not find any evidence on JW but not before turning his life upside down and getting him fired from his employer, a defense contractor.

As if to salvage something from this fiasco, the FBI authorities then charged Woo with abetting an enemy agent. This time they proceeded quietly rather than with usual media fanfare. While this case is also heading towards resolution, the racial bias against Chinese Americans run deep and Woo will not be fully exonerated nor get the justice she deserves.

Aside from the obvious conclusion that grains of sand espionage could hardly be an effective way of spying, FBI can also see that China does not use grains of sand espionage elsewhere. When spies were caught across the Taiwan Straits by either side, they revealed the same universal modus operandi, namely they were recruited with booze, sex or cash.

In fact they could easily learn about Chinese techniques by interviewing Donald Keyser, the most senior State Department official to be compromised by Isabella Cheng, a comely undercover agent from Republic of China on Taiwan. FBI monitors—and they are good at this sort of activity--reported seeing them parked in lover’s lanes in Washington where her head disappeared from view for twenty minutes at a time.

Keyser has admitted to turning over reams of confidential information on Jiang Zemin’s meeting with President Bush while fondling a naked Chinese asset nearly thirty years his junior—though he assured his interrogators that no sex or espionage was involved. He, obviously not a Chinese American, has been permitted to retire. While the case is allegedly still under investigation, Keyser has yet to spend one day in jail.

Inequity aside, this institutional bias towards Chinese Americans has and will cost America dearly.

Some fifty years ago, during the height of McCarthyism and xenophobic paranoia, the U.S. hounded and persecuted Qian Xuesen. Qian was no run of the mill rocket scientist. He was a founding member of Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab and personally responsible for many of the early breakthroughs in rocket telemetry developed for the U.S. military. He even held an American military rank of colonel.

First McCarthy accused him of being a communist despite flimsy evidence. Since his work was halted by the hearings, he decided to return to China to see his parents. When the customs official found his books and papers in this luggage, the federal government accused him of being a spy for China and put him under house arrest.

Eventually, the U.S. released him to China in exchange for prisoners of the Korean War. This single act presented China with more critical missile technology, carried in Qian’s head, than all the grains of sand from Mojave Desert could have accomplished.

The American military labs and defense contractors are full of Chinese American scientists and engineers. If they were to all leave their posts, the American defense capability would be crippled. Yet the recent experiences of Wen Ho Lee and Chi Mak suggest that no matter how brilliant have been their careers and vital have been their contributions, they will never be fully accepted but can become a suspicious alien in a minute.

The U.S. intelligence community badly needs to recruit from ethnic Americans with the right kind of racial, cultural and linguistic background to work on the front lines of intelligence gathering. Yet as the experience of Denise Woo and Captain James Yee(2) shows, not only the agencies that employ them can’t be counted on to support them but can become the very organizations that turn on them.

Even though Chinese Americans represent slightly more than 1% of the U.S. population, their high school graduates regularly capture 10-20% of national prizes in science competition and occupy comparable or higher percentages of entering freshman classes in top tier universities. Given their success in the private sector--in Silicon Valley, Chinese Americans are responsible for more than 20% of the high tech start-ups—it is difficult to see why they would want to work in defense sensitive industries and national military laboratories and subject themselves to specious treason charges.

However, in a June BBC telecast on China’s espionage, the FBI agent in charge of Silicon Valley, Don Przybyla said, “China is using a shot-gun approach, flooding the Silicon Valley with engineers and scientists.

"The Chinese have found success in obtaining the technology through stealing, essentially. Once successful they'll send more people over to do the same thing."

It seems Agent Przybyla has substituted the imagery of grains of sand with the shot gun, but otherwise the same chilling broad brush categorization remains. Namely, watch out for all those Chinese running around the Silicon Valley. Perhaps, simply joining the private sector will not free the Chinese American from racial bias so deeply ingrained in the FBI.

Of course, America’s superior racial and ideological smugness incurs even greater costs than just the impact on Chinese Americans. With the current zeal to democratize the Middle East by the point of the sword, we will need every willing Arab American to serve on the front lines as soldiers, intelligence officers and diplomats. Unfortunately the very people that we need are the ones feeling most of the brunt of racism and ethnic bias arising from mass anti-Islamic hysteria. The inducement for them to volunteer is not easy to see.
(1) Six years after his release, Dr. Lee finally received some compensation for his pain and suffering. The payment came from the media so as to protect their integrity of not disclosing their sources. The government sources responsible for the leaks of misinformation were not revealed, and the sources did not have to face public accounting for their actions. Justice was hardly served.

(2) Days after Capt. Yee, a Muslim chaplain and West Point graduate, received a commendation for outstanding performance at Guantanamo, he was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement for consorting with the enemy, namely the hapless prisoners. He was subsequently honorably discharged and facts surrounding his case never underwent the rigors of a public scrutiny but suggested that the commanding general of Guantanamo despised Yee for ministering to the prisoners too well. The same commanding general went on to supervise the inhumane treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

U.S. Snubs Taiwan's Chen, Looks Ahead to Successor

New America Media, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: May 11, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: Washington’s refusal to allow Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian a layover in the United States last week speaks to Chen’s waning power in global politics, writes NAM contributor George Koo, an international business consultant who has met Chen and rival Ma Ying-jeou over the years.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian failed at his usual "transit diplomacy" when the United States refused to let him step on American soil during his trip to Latin America last week.

Chen’s failure to match the recent high-profile U.S. visits by China’s President Hu Jintao and political rival and Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou clearly indicates that Chen has fallen out of the White House’s favor.

Only 26 countries still maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, including Paraguay and Costa Rica, which Chen visited on his trip. In the past, Washington had given Chen permission for such stopovers, thus allowing him to give speeches, meet local Chinese Americans and even confer with politicians and government officials -- all despite vigorous objections from Beijing. China considers Taiwan a part of China and not an independent state.

Not this time. The administration would only allow Chen to land in Anchorage for a two-hour refueling and would not even let him de-plane and stretch his legs. Chen is said to have demanded the right to stop in New York. Washington said no.

An indignant Chen took off from Taipei and while airborne told the pilot to head west via the Middle East and Europe, bypassing North America altogether. The originally 12-hour flight to Paraguay ended up taking three times as long.
A flurry of reactions followed. Washington couldn’t understand what the tantrum was all about. Chen lashed out, blaming China’s President Hu for undermining his trip. Critics in Taiwan thought Chen overplayed his hand and brought the indignities on himself.

In his six years in office, critics say Chen has done nothing to help Taiwan’s economy but made only policy maneuvers that would help him stay in power. Most of those maneuvers cater to his supporters who favor independence and antagonize Beijing.

Publicly, Chen seemed oblivious to his own complicity in his comeuppance. For months, he had acted as the irritant between U.S.-China bilateral relations. Every time Washington asked Chen to show restraint and not annoy Beijing, he had done just the opposite.

Most recently, after promising not to do so, he attempted to dissolve the inactive, but politically symbolic National Reunification Council in Taiwan, which was created to study reunification possibilities between China and Taiwan. This did not please Beijing and Washington. Only after receiving a message in the sternest terms from President George W. Bush did Chen back down. Shunting Chen to Anchorage was payback from an exasperated Bush administration to an unreliable ally. Chen’s influence in Washington has vanished as quickly as his own popularity at home, which has sunk to below 20 percent.

In starkest terms, Washington is telling Chen that he figures little in the U.S. relationship with Taiwan. Beijing has ceased to pay attention to Chen but is actively wooing his opposition such as Ma and Lien Chan, the former head of the opposition Nationalist party who unsuccessfully ran against Chen. Washington is following the same script.

About a month ago, Ma visited the United States for 10 days, covering New York, Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- every city that would have been on top of Chen’s wish list. Ma enjoyed high-level access to senior officials of the administration including a three-hour conversation with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

Ma is also chairman of the Nationalist, or Kuomintang party. He is Chen’s rival and likely successor. Ma’s unusually warm treatment in the United States should warn Chen that Washington is saying it would rather do business with Ma.

By raising not a murmur of objection to Ma’s extensive U.S. trip, Beijing is tacitly saying they too would rather deal with the rational Ma, rather than the erratic Chen.

Ma and Lien both favor rapprochement with Beijing. They recognize that both Taiwan and China have more to gain in cooperation than confrontation. Beijing has, in turn, reciprocated by welcoming Lien to China twice in one year and by buying more agriculture products from Taiwan farmers, thus eroding Chen’s support base.

Rather than allow Chen to dictate the tone of the bilateral relationship, the United States and China clearly understand that they have far more important common issues to resolve. Non-nuclear proliferation, especially with regard to Iran and North Korea, energy, environment, anti-terrorism, open trade, are among the common issues that weigh far more in the minds of the principals than the agitations of a frustrated sideshow.

To add to Chen’s consternation, California Senator Dianne Feinstein recently declared that nothing in the Taiwan Relations Act obliges the United States to go to war over Taiwan.

It seems that Chen, in his remaining two years of as a lame duck, will be increasingly irrelevant, his influence in Washington marginalized. Both Washington and Beijing will be patiently waiting to see who will bring Taiwan to the table when Chen steps down.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Too Much Ado in Congress Over China and the Internet

Editor's Note: America shouldn't tell China how its citizens should use the Internet, the writer says. George Koo is an international business consultant and contributor to New America Media. (First appeared in and subsequently reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle.)

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The current Congressional furor over China's Internet firewall can be boiled down to one simple conclusion: In my house, I rule; in your house, I also rule. In other words, we Americans insist that the Chinese should make use of the Internet in the same way we do.

This kind of logic makes as much sense as insisting that Beijing grant a broadcasting license to Voice of America inside China. So far, not even our hubris has reached that patently ludicrous conclusion.

In fact, the information and messages we think the Chinese people should not be deprived of are beamed by Voice of America from outside of China, not from within. If Google, Yahoo et al. wish to permit unfiltered access to all sorts of information to the people of China, they can. Just do it from outside of China.

In order to operate from inside China, it seems obvious that the companies would have to abide by the rules and regulations of the host country. We may not like those rules, but that's what sovereignty is all about.

Congress takes a different view, equating China's Internet policy to violation of human rights and denial of freedom of speech. Silicon Valley Internet companies are accused of dastardly complicity. Yet, ask Web surfers in China for their reaction, they merely shrug and cannot understand what the fuss is all about.

What about the human rights of journalists jailed in China for their indiscretion on the Net? In the same light, what about the many hapless innocent people caught in the U.S. fight against terrorism now languishing in Guantanamo or who were outsourced to third countries for torture? We may argue as to which is a greater violation of human rights, but ultimately, the resolution will come from within and not be dictated by another foreign authority.

In China, people use the Internet to play games, read the news and socialize in chat groups. Few use the Internet to purvey political messages; most do not care and do not feel deprived.

It's not as if China actively discourages use of and access to the Internet. Just the opposite: From about 1 million users in 1998, China has seen an increase to around 110 million users in just seven years. It will soon overtake the United States as the largest market of Internet users. Policy-makers in Beijing see the importance of information flow to economic growth more clearly than perhaps anywhere else.

Naturally, as China's market grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for Silicon Valley companies to ignore. Congress seems to think that China needs Silicon Valley technology more than the companies need the market. Not so. Chinese Internet users prefer China's Baidu's search engine over Google by a wide margin. Baidu's very success drove Google to entering the market. Huawei and Ztech are offering lower-cost networking switches to compete with Cisco. Yahoo leapfrogged its own effort to penetrate the Chinese market by spending $1 billion for a large stake in Alibaba, the most successful e-commerce Web site in that country.

Beijing's desire to control the flow of content while encouraging popular access are not mutually compatible over the long haul, so there's going to more information than controls. The situation fits the classic Chinese term for contradiction, mao dun, i.e., spear and shield. As technology advances, the power of the Internet will continue to grow and any firewall technology (the shield) will always play catch-up.

One of the Chinese government's reasons for the firewall is to restrict access to pornography in cyberspace. Its neighbor Taiwan, lacking such control, is a major source of purveyors of smut. It will be interesting to see how this contradiction plays out as the two sides entwine even more deeply in their economic integration.

Last November, Washington-based Pew Research announced the results of their global attitudes survey involving the people of 18 countries including China and the United States. One of the questions asked was, "How satisfied are you with the way things are in your country?" China scored the highest among the 18 countries with 72 percent indicating satisfaction and 19 percent not satisfied. In the United States, the results were reversed with merely 39 percent satisfied and 57 percent not.

Perhaps Congress was unaware of the Pew survey results since they were reported by few in the U.S. media. Rather than holding Congressional hearings on why China should make their cyberspace more open, shouldn't our elected politicians show more concern on why a mere 39 percent of our citizens are happy with the way things are going here?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Silicon Valley's Lead Role in Idea Economy Relies on Foreign-Born

New America Media, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: Jan 25, 2006

Talk of Silicon's Valley's big comeback could turn out to be hype unless America reforms its shortsighted policies on immigration and education.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--"Silicon Valley is back," proclaimed the organizers of a State of the Valley conference that examined the economic health of the world-famous wellspring of technology. That's good news. But the bad news is that our fear of immigrants could threaten the valley's resurgence.

The conference, sponsored by the nonprofit Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, celebrated the reversal of a negative trend: Every year since the dot-com bust in 2000, the valley's total employment had declined. Last year the Silicon Valley payroll, however, showed an increase of about 2,000 jobs, or some 0.2 percent of a work force of 1 million. From peak to trough, the valley actually had lost more than 200,000 jobs. The minuscule gain was seen as hopeful sign that the hemorrhage has stopped.

Nonetheless, industry leaders and pundits at the event were quick with self-congratulations and applauded Silicon Valley's ability to reinvent itself and remain the world's center for new technologies. First, it had broken through in innovation on integrated circuits, then in information technology, then the Internet and life sciences and now as the world leader in an idea economy.

Beneath the thin veneer of good news, however, there's food for thought that can cause indigestion and keep one up at night -- at least for those worried about the future of this country. It's about our shortsighted policies on immigrants and education.

According to the survey released, Silicon Valley made up 1 percent of the nation's population but filed 11 percent of the patents and soaked up over 25 percent of all the venture capital invested in the United States. By any measure, this was a confirmation of the innovative and unique character of the valley.

This uniqueness can be attributed to demographics that are different from anywhere else in the country. Here, whites are already a minority, at 40 percent of the population. Asians make up 33 percent and are the second-largest ethnic group.

The foreign-born make up 38 percent of the denizens of Silicon Valley and account for 53 percent of the engineers and scientists working there. One can only conclude that the Silicon Valley spirit of innovation and enterprise is inseparable from the presence of immigrants.

Without immigrants there would be no Silicon Valley. Yet since 9/11, our national policy has been to keep foreigners out. This policy is indiscriminate and affects our ability to attract the talent that the valley needs. Some would even argue that the anti-immigrant policy has been used to keep out foreign students coming from China and India.

This country's past greatness, built on the backs of immigrants, is frequently forgotten. There's even the thinking that raising the barrier for foreign entry would lower the bar of entry to the industry for native-born Americans. Unfortunately, technological excellence cannot be wrung from those with mediocre credentials.

At every unveiling of the past year's scorecard for Silicon Valley, leaders complain about the inadequate quality of K-12 education in this country and publicly wonder where the next-wave-entry engineers will come from. Were it not for foreign students who came to study and decided to remain and work in the valley, there would have been no horses to drive innovation.

This country is not just leaving any child behind. A whole generation is being left behind. A recent international math test of 15-year-olds ranked the United States 29th out of 34 nations tested. This is just one of a stream of indications. We should be frightened out of our wits, but we've been hearing these kinds of results for much too long.

Out of the 300 semifinalists at the prestigious Intel Science Fair this year, a national competition for high school students, 67 have a Chinese surname. That's roughly 10 times higher than pro-rata share based on the Chinese population in the United States.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there were nine semifinalists, two with surnames from India and four from China or Taiwan. One can't tell by their surnames if the other three came from immigrant families.

Instead of talking about white flight from Asian-dominated high schools in Cupertino, Calif., we should be worrying about how to motivate more kids of any ethnic group to take an interest in math and science.

We don't teach our kids to be good in math and science. Yet we don't want immigrants who are highly trained and motivated to be too formidable a competition for native-born American kids.

What does this say about the future of the United States? How long can we continue to ring the gong of good news in Silicon Valley?